United Way of Santa Barbara County has announced that, thanks to generous supporters, the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort for Santa Barbara County, has secured more than $1.2 million to provide ongoing support for individuals and families in need through Individual Assistance Grants.

To date, more than 800 households (representing 2,600 individuals) have received relief funds. Hundreds more households will receive support in the coming weeks.

Paying rent and covering basic needs remain the top concerns for the thousands of residents who have lost employment.

In addition, 94 local nonprofit organizations have received grants totaling more than $1.3 million to also help them meet immediate and near-term community needs.

United Way of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Foundation, and the Hutton Parker Foundation are leading the countywide funders’ collaborative, the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort for Santa Barbara County, which has raised more than $3 million to respond to community needs.

The effort provides assistance for individuals and families as well as organizations actively assisting members of the community affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

United Way is working in partnership with Family Service Agency to distribute individual assistance grants to individuals and families in need on a rolling basis for as long as funds are available. United Way and Family Service Agency are currently reviewing applications and conducting remote interviews with all applicants to verify information and needs to provide case management services.

“Due to the longer-term effects of the pandemic, additional financial needs have arisen for our most vulnerable individuals and families,” said Steve Ortiz, president/CEO, United Way of Santa Barbara County. “As unemployment rates climb, many are at risk of losing their housing.

“Top concerns for families are paying rent and purchasing food and medicine. We continue to actively raise funds to provide additional support to those in need, particularly individuals who may not have qualified for federal stimulus checks.”

Those in need are encouraged to submit an application for funding as soon as possible. Applicants must be Santa Barbara County residents and must be able to demonstrate need. Undocumented individuals are eligible to apply for funding. Visit unitedwaysb.org/covid19 to apply.

Funding priorities are as follows:

• Basic needs for individuals/families experiencing hardship securing or maintaining basic needs (e.g. food insecurity, need for medical care/equipment, medications, access to mental health services etc.).

• Santa Barbara County individuals/families experiencing loss of wages or employment due to business closures, social distancing ordinances …

• Individuals/families who have experienced hardship due to unexpected childcare/education needs and expenses.

“My wife and I would like to thank you for this generous check,” said one recent recipient of response funds. “We are very humbled and grateful to have received your financial support during this difficult time. We will always remember you in our hearts for this gift that will be used for our medications and this week’s food purchase. Your letter was truly a blessing when it came in the mail.”

United Way of Santa Barbara County urges those who are fortunate enough to be able to give to support the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort for Santa Barbara County. Donations to support individuals and families can be made at United Way at unitedwaysb.org/covid19; or to support local nonprofits serving affected community members. Donations can be made at the Santa Barbara Foundation, SBFoundation.org/covid-19responseeffort.