City of Seattle launches $16 million Seattle Relief Fund to help low-income residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
One-time direct cash assistance available to Seattle families, young people, and artists/culture workers
Additional $5.8 million distributed to low-income immigrants through Seattle COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund
SEATTLE (October 25, 2021) – The City of Seattle launched a new Seattle Relief Fund - a $16 million lifeline to help low-income residents who have been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes households that were unable to access state unemployment, had no health insurance, didn’t receive federal stimulus payments, or experienced housing instability or mental health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This new fund builds on $6.5 million distributed to low-income immigrants and community-based organizations already with Seattle Rescue Funds.
Award amounts are between $1,000 and $3,000 depending on household size. The fund is open to all eligible Seattle residents regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. Eligible applicants must be 18 years old or older, have incomes under 50 percent of Seattle’s area median income (less than $40,500 for an individual or $57,850 for a family of four), and have at least one of these situations apply to the individual or to a household member:
Live within the boundaries of the city of Seattle, or
Be enrolled in the Seattle Promise program, or
Be enrolled in Seattle Public Schools, or
Be an artist/cultural worker who has owned or rented an art studio or rehearsal space within the boundaries of the City of Seattle at any time since March 2020.
Applicants can access the online application in one of eight languages. In-language help to assist with application completion is offered from community-based organizations (see below).
“As the first U.S. city to be significantly impacted by COVID-19, Seattle has been a leader to rise to address both the public health and economic challenges of this pandemic. We were the first city to quickly respond to directly support our residents and small businesses with grants, innovative new programs like grocery vouchers and rental assistance, and direct cash assistance,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “Because of our federal funds, we can continue to help vulnerable residents, especially immigrants and BIPOC families who continue to be disproportionately impacted by this ongoing pandemic.”
The Seattle Relief Fund dollars are part of a $25 million investment in the Seattle Rescue Plan, proposed and passed by Mayor Durkan and the Seattle City Council in June 2021. The Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) initially prioritized relief funding for direct cash assistance to low-income immigrants who both received financial aid from last year’s Seattle COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund for Immigrants (SDRF) and who continue to be eligible. In this separate recertification process, OIRA partnered with Scholar Fund (SF), previously known as “Scholarship Junkies,” which began sending out text and email notifications to past awardees on August 30, 2021. Of the 3,705 recipients of SDRF cash assistance in 2020 2020, 62.6 percent completed the recertification process and were eligible to receive awards, resulting in a total of $5.8 million in cash assistance. SDRF recertification awards recipients are not eligible to apply for the Seattle Relief Fund.
"I want to thank the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, along with many other City workers, who made sure the Seattle Relief Fund is open to every Seattle resident regardless of immigration status. Throughout this pandemic, our undocumented neighbors have been left out of other lifelines, such as unemployment insurance. This fund is welcome news for them as well as for the many households struggling in an expensive city,” said Council President M. Lorena González. “As a community, we’ve created meaningful COVID-19 relief programs for our residents: direct cash assistance, rent relief, food assistance, utility assistance, and more. I’m proud of that work, and the ongoing care and community building we have for each other gives me hope."
"As we continue to respond to the impact that COVID-19 has had, we must do so by prioritizing the most impacted communities,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, Position 8, Citywide. “We know that systemic inequities have long persisted prior to the pandemic, this is our opportunity to shift how we service all of our community members and make sure folks who for far too long been denied access to public services, can too get the necessary financial assistance that can provide some temporary relief during these trying times."
OIRA and the Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) are continuing to partner with Scholar Fund (SF) for the Seattle Relief Fund application and fund disbursement processes.
“I was just a child in 1975, when my family fled to the United States from Vietnam with just a plastic bag of family photos,” said OIRA Director Cuc Vu. “But thanks to the kindness of Washington residents and elected leaders who took to heart the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty – ‘from her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome’ – we received assistance and were able to adjust to our new home and eventually give back to our community. We hope the Seattle Relief Fund will be a helpful boost for those Seattle residents who have been impacted by this ongoing pandemic and who need assistance to bounce back. I thank the Mayor and the Council for ensuring these funds help families most in need. And we are proud to once again partner with essential community organizations who have been at the front lines of helping vulnerable individuals during the past year and a half of the pandemic.”
OIRA and HSD have also issued a total of $690,000 in contracts with local nonprofit community-based organizations to assist with outreach and to help applicants who need assistance in applying over-the-phone or in-person, especially applicants who are English-language learners or who have other accessibility issues. The full list of nonprofit partners can be found at the end of this release.
“The pandemic continues for so many people,” said César García, the co-director of the nonprofit Lake City Collective, one of the SRF community partner organizations. “Especially for those who have lost income because someone in their household became very ill or died, or for parents who couldn't afford childcare, or workers whose employer shutdown,” he added. “The Seattle Relief Fund recognizes that our neighbors who contribute to Seattle’s economy need a lifeline to keep them afloat in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Lake City Collective is thankful to Mayor Durkan, the Council, and the City of Seattle through departments like OIRA for sending a clear message to our communities, that through actions like this fund and the City’s continuing citywide vaccination efforts, they care about our most vulnerable residents.”
“We are proud to partner with community-based organizations across the city on outreach and application assistance to communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tanya Kim, HSD’s Acting Director. “We know that despite improvements for many, our Black, indigenous, and people of color community members continue to disproportionally feel the impacts of our public health response—which is why it’s critical that we partner with trusted community agencies to provide support that is culturally responsive and in a household’s preferred language. We are working hard to ensure that direct cash assistance is accessible to those most in need with minimal barriers.”
The Seattle Relief Fund will start accepting applications today and will close on Monday, November 15 at 11:59 p.m. For more information, please visit the Scholar Fund program page at: seattlerelief.com.
The full list of Seattle Relief Fund partner organizations:
Amigos de Seattle
Asian Pacific Islander Coalition Advocating Together (APICAT) for Health
Boys & Girls Clubs of King County
Byrd Barr Place
Children's Home Society of Washington/North Seattle Family Resource Center
Chinese Information and Service Center
Colectiva Legal del Pueblo
Communities In Schools of Seattle
Consejo Counseling and Referral Service
Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association (DNDA)
Denise Louie Education Center
Eritrean Association in Greater Seattle
Ethiopian Community in Seattle
Filipino Community of Seattle
Gay City: Seattle's LGBTQ Center
Horn Of Africa Services
IDIC Filipino Senior & Family Services
King County Equity Now
Korean Community Service Center
La Sala Latinx Artists' Network
Lake City Collective
Muslim Housing Services
Northwest Film Forum
Path with Art
Rainier Valley Food Bank
Sea Mar Community Health Centers
Seattle Indian Center
Somali Family Safety Task Force
St. James Cathedral Immigrant Assistance
United Communities of Laos
Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
Voices of Tomorrow
Washington Dream Coalition
West African Community Council
West Seattle Food Bank