COVID-19 Response Update from Steve Ortiz, CEO - April 2, 2020

APRIL 2, 2020
Dear United Way Friend and Supporter,
I hope that you are doing as well as possible as we all weather this unprecedented health crisis. I’m writing today to update you on the expanded COVID-19 response efforts that your support of UWSBC and its partners has made possible for our neighbors in need. 
Earlier this month, we let you know that United Way of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Foundation, and the Hutton Parker Foundation are leading the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort for Santa Barbara County, a countywide collaborative also including some members of the Foundation Roundtable. This response effort will help individuals and families, as well as the organizations actively assisting them, as they navigate the economic effects of the pandemic.  
Our direct COVID-19 response projects are making significant progress. On March 30th, United Way began accepting applications for individual assistance grants and will be working in partnership with Family Service Agency, its case management agency, to begin distributing available funding on a rolling basis. United Way, Santa Barbara Foundation, and Hutton Parker Foundation are also reviewing initial applications from organizations serving affected residents. 
Calling upon our experience and partnerships that were put in place in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flows, United Way and its partners are working as quickly and efficiently as possible to begin providing much-needed resources to families, individuals, and community organizations. Thank you for your trust in United Way of Santa Barbara County and your support as we continue working to meet the needs of our community in this time of crisis. 
Separate from the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort, to meet the urgent need to provide safe child care for essential Santa Barbara County employees, United Way is also working in partnership with Jane and Paul Orfalea/the Audacious Foundation and the Natalie Orfalea Foundation, with Lou Buglioli through The Emergency Child Care Fund. This incubator fund will initiate a quick and nimble response to the growing need for child care for Santa Barbara County employees working in professions that are essential to our community’s collective response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Eileen Monahan, a local expert in child care is helping lead the project. In less than a week since the program first started, two programs (in Lompoc and Santa Barbara) have already opened. A third program is in development in Santa Maria and more programs are planned. 
While we are investing time in partnerships that lead these new and much-needed efforts to support our community during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are continuing to lead and even expand our work in education and financial stability to meet the emerging needs of our community’s children, families, and seniors as they navigate the effects of this public health emergency. 
United for Literacy: Local educators are relying heavily on our online literacy improvement software, Lexia and Reading Plus, which can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere with an internet connection, as schools migrate to a virtual classroom setting. Hope Elementary School Principal, Liz Barnitz, shared with us, “Reading Plus and Lexia are great tools for the times we face.” Students love the programs, too. Annet, a local third grader, loves Lexia because she said, “It helped me read more and faster.” 5th grader Crystal likes Reading Plus “because you can choose the stories you like and that interest you.” 
United Way is working to support students and parents at all local school districts with our online literacy improvement software, Lexia and Reading Plus. Additionally, United Way’s team has been hosting a series of webinars for both programs for educators and parents. United Way has also been able to extend access to existing partner schools to ensure that every student has the ability to expand its literacy skills during this unprecedented time.   
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA): To help tax filers in need access the tax refunds and federal stimulus checks that they may be eligible for (and need now more than ever), our traditionally in-person tax assistance program has now moved to a remote preparation model. Clients can drop off their return paperwork for volunteers to prepare and file returns remotely. More information about locations and hours can be found at  
Fun in the Sun: Planning for United Way’s award winning summer learning program has continued. To date, we have received confirmations that our sites plan to open their facilities for summer programming. Fun in the Sun is needed now more than ever with students’ academic and social emotional growth suffering during school closures. Of course, these local school agreements and timelines may change depending on local, regional and national ordinances.  
These programs and partnerships are only possible through the generous support of dedicated community members like you. Thank you for your continued partnership during this time. If you would like to support any of these efforts, please visit  
Be well and take good care!


Steve Ortiz, President & CEO, United Way of Santa Barbara County