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By Eva Barrows                                             Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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October 30, 2020                            EPA Today Facebook page Follow epatoday on Twitter EPA Today Blog Icon



Photo about the Immigrant Relief Fund


This past July, San Mateo County in partnership with Sobrato Philanthropies, created an Immigrant Relief Fund to help address the immigrant community’s needs during the pandemic. The fund provides one thousand dollar grants to qualified applicants.  The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors granted the fund an additional two million dollars during its board meeting on October 20.

The fund is designed to help vulnerable residents, who are not eligible for federal assistance due to their immigration status. So far, the 13.1 million dollar fund has provided grants to over 10,156 households. San Mateo County residents, who are denied federal CARES Act stimulus payments, have an income that is less than 80% of the median income and have lost income due to the pandemic may apply to the fund for a grant.

The Mission Asset Fund (MAF) handles the Immigrant Relief Fund application process. To apply for a grant, applicants complete a pre-application and, depending on eligibility requirements and funding availability, are invited to complete a full grant application online. If approved, grants are distributed by direct bank deposit or mailed via check.

Grant approvals are prioritized by household income level, children and other dependents and COVID-19 impacts. The current monthly income for 46% of those who received a grant was zero, and 16% of recipients’ household size included five or more people. COVID-19 directly impacted 34% of the households, who received a grant where one or more persons contracted the virus.

In sharing with MAF what her life has been like during the pandemic, a grant recipient and single mother of two  said, “I’ve been really affected by this pandemic, not only because of the reduced income, but because of the risk of getting the virus for my family and me, which is why I lost my job and any chance to earn money to bring home.”

The communities of North Fair Oaks in Redwood City, San Mateo and East Palo Alto saw the highest need for assistance, with 1,360 East Palo Alto families receiving grants. In speaking at the October 6 San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting in support of the Immigration Relief Fund, Supervisor Warren Slocum said, “The folks in those communities have been hardest hit. There was a food distribution effort that my staff participated in where some of the mothers coming through for food said this was the first significant amount of food their family had had in a long time. This is heartbreaking.”

At the end of September, 2020, 22,745 pre-applications had been submitted and of those 11,156 grant applications were started with 10,156 approved. Close to 96% of the funding has been distributed. Sophie Mintier of the county manager’s office stated that one thousand completed applications would likely not receive funding because money had run out.

John Sobrato, the real estate developer who founded Sobrato Philanthropies, attended the October 6 Board of Supervisors meeting to request additional county funding to replenish the Immigrant Relief Fund. Sobrato returned for the following board meeting and thanked the supervisors for approving an additional two million dollars to continue providing grants.

“Because of your commitment two weeks ago, I’ve been able to do much more fundraising,” Sobrato told the board. “In addition to my 5 million that I funded back in July, we were able to raise another 4.1 million from philanthropy, and with the county's total 4 million, that's a total of 13.1 million to help 13,000 families.”

To apply for assistance or check on the status of an application contact the Mission Asset Fund (MAF) (https://missionassetfund.org/immigrant-families-grant-sm/).


Eva Barrows contributes articles of special interest to East Palo Alto Today..