A Message from Steve Ortiz, CEO - Sept 9, 2020

SEPT 9, 2020

It is unbelievable that this summer has gone by so quickly. This year has brought so many unprecedented community challenges including those we face with the new school year. Below, I want to quickly update you on United Way’s COVID-19 response efforts that now include two new initiatives.  With our partners, we will continue to build resilient communities by leading local programs and partnerships that improve crisis response and recovery.

Learning & Enrichment Centers Collaborative

For thousands of families in our community, the new school year has been top of mind. For many families, the stress of finding child care and an appropriate learning environment for their children has been overwhelming. In an effort to support local schools and students with their recent remote launch in August, United Way of Santa Barbara County and its community partners have created the Learning & Enrichment Centers Collaborative, a broad child care and learning/enrichment model to provide additional support for our most vulnerable local children and families during this time of distance learning. This collaborative involves dozens of partner schools and youth-serving agencies, and local leaders in philanthropy.

Created in response to several unmet needs and service gaps that have become apparent during school closures due to COVID-19, the Learning & Enrichment Centers will support children and families through providing access to technology and internet, adult supervision and learning support, social/emotional skill development, access to food, enrichment/exercise activity, and more.
We recently heard from one of our school partners that one of their students, just 8 years old, was responsible for her own virtual learning and the learning of her two younger siblings. She had to make sure everyone was logging in at the right time and helping them with their work. She was so overwhelmed that she was not logging in for her own classes. Unfortunately, this circumstance is not unique.
To alleviate some of the stress of distance learning, United Way is working with existing child care providers and youth-serving agencies to increase capacity at their facilities to provide care and educational support that will better help students with distance learning. Due to overwhelming need, current efforts are being targeted to serve about 750-1,000+ of the most vulnerable children/students from three high-need target populations: foster and homeless youth, students who qualify for free and reduced meals, and children of essential workers.
To date, United Way has secured $520,000 for these Learning & Enrichment Centers. With secured funds, United Way has already created 342 spaces for 12-weeks (3 months / fall semester) in partnership with six school districts (Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Goleta, Hope, Guadalupe, and Santa Maria Bonita) and eight non-profit organizations. More spaces are in development. Students will be selected by a school district referral process developed by United Way and district representatives following the targeted priority list.

New Individual Assistance Grants Available

The pandemic has highlighted the precarious financial situation and extreme stress many of our friends and neighbors are experiencing. Every day we hear from local individuals who cannot pay their rent due to significantly reduced or eliminated income, who cannot afford food or necessary medicines, who are struggling with large medical bills, who don’t have access to paid sick leave to safely quarantine, or who are dealing with other issues created by the current health crisis. This is why United Way is happy to inform you that the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) has made available additional emergency funds for our community to address needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. United Way of Santa Barbara County has been awarded three new contracts by the County of Santa Barbara, the City of Santa Barbara and the City of Goleta totaling $2.6 million to manage and provide emergency rental assistance grants and other disaster response funding to our county’s most vulnerable individuals and families.

These new funding opportunities include:

  • County of Santa Barbara Emergency Rental Assistance Program - $2,000,000 will provide rental assistance for income-qualified individuals living in unincorporated parts of Santa Barbara County. To apply, CLICK HERE.
  • County of Santa Barbara Disaster Assistance - $200,000 will provide grants to support the safe isolation of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 The Public Health Department will directly refer individuals who have tested positive to UWSBC.
  • City of Santa Barbara Emergency Rental Assistance - $352,965 Due to high demand, these funds have been fully allocated and this funding cycle is now closed. City of Santa Barbara residents in need may be eligible for funding through the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort. To apply, CLICK HERE.
  • City of Goleta - $42,676 will provide emergency financial assistance for income-qualified senior citizens living in City of Goleta. To apply, CLICK HERE.
COVID-19 Joint Response Effort for Santa Barbara County

Finally, the countywide COVID-19 Joint Response Effort for Santa Barbara County led by United Way of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Foundation, and the Hutton Parker Foundation, has raised over $4.6 million and continues providing relief to thousands. From these funds, more than $1.9 million has been secured to provide ongoing relief grants for individuals and families in need. To date, 2,100 households (representing more than 10,000 individuals) have received grants to help meet basic needs. United Way and Family Service Agency (our case management agency) continue to review and approve grants on a rolling basis. The COVID-19 Joint Response Effort has also provided $1.95 million to 127 local nonprofit organizations to help meet additional community needs.
One grant recipient shared how your support impacted their family:
“It’s really an existential crisis for those of us who don’t have any more work. When the money stops coming in, you start asking yourself questions you’ve never asked before, like, ‘How will I pay my rent? What will I do if I can’t?’ United Way was certainly the first one that was a ray of light in that darkness.”
An infographic detailing these updates can be found HERE.
Just six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to see evolving effects. The generous support of hundreds of partners and caring community members like you has made it possible for United Way to develop new and innovative collaborative efforts to meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents. As this pandemic continues and additional needs become apparent, additional funding is still needed. If you are able to support us in these many efforts, we ask that you consider a making a donation today by visiting www.unitedwaysb.org/give

We deeply appreciate your continued partnership in these crisis response and recovery efforts. Thank you for all that you do to make Santa Barbara County a better place.
Wishing you and your family good health.




Steve Ortiz

President & CEO