United Way Critical Needs Fund

CNF’s Purpose:
United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) and leaders in philanthropy have established a Critical Needs Fund (CNF) that can quickly deploy philanthropic and nonprofit resources in support of Santa Barbara County’s fight against the spread of COVID-19. The primary purpose of the CNF is to help leaders from the Public Health Department and other medical/health care leaders contain and/or reduce the rate of viral transmission in our community by filling key gaps in the public/medical sectors’ efforts to fight COVID-19. As we continue to control spread of the virus, the CNF is especially focused on supporting strategies that help Santa Barbara County safely reopen its economy. Specifically, the CNF focuses on two strategies that are among the most important of California’s six indicators for modifying the stay-at-home order:
  1. Isolation Capacity – In this focus area the CNF helps pay for hotel rooms and social service, medical, and other support for people who are diagnosed with, or are presumed to have, COVID-19 and who lack a place to self-isolate/quarantine that is safe for themselves and others.
  2. Robust Contact Tracing Capacity – In this focus area the CNF is funding the Family Service Agency to engage up to 30 culturally and linguistically competent employees who are now being deployed and integrated into the County Public Health Department’s contact tracing program.
  3. Vaccination Equity Project  – The Vaccination Equity Project (VEP) will support coordinated vaccination equity strategies in Santa Barbara County and will fund local nonprofits that demonstrate their ability to directly contact and engage with culturally and linguistically isolated, underserved, and hard-to-serve populations that are disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19. 
The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis. Much of our society’s response is being led by government agencies and public institutions. While public sector resources are robust, they are extremely spread thin. Government funding also comes with limitations and regulatory controls that inhibit the flexibility necessary to rapidly meet emerging and immediate needs. Private philanthropic investments are the most flexible and rapidly deployable funds we have in the fight against COVID-19. The CNF is established to facilitate the effective deployment of those funds in a manner that is informed directly by the medical/public health professionals leading our local fight to prevent further spread of the virus and to reopen our local economy.
In its first phase, the CNF was focused on building local Isolation Capacity for people who were infected with the virus but who were unable to safely isolate/quarantine. As the availability of testing has grown, the CNF is now expanding focus to include Contact Tracing. Mass testing, ability to isolate those who test positive, and contact tracing are three of the most critical components of any effort to control spread of the virus and reopen our economy. If Santa Barbara County cannot show the State of California robust models in testing, isolation, and contact tracing, the State will delay the County’s reopening and easing of social distancing.
CNF Phase 2 Focus Areas:
  1. Isolation Capacity: Efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 locally require quarantine/isolation of people who have tested positive or who are presumed positive but for whom testing results are pending. For most people, quarantine/isolation means staying home and avoiding all contact with others. For some people in our community, home is not available or a suitable/safe option. Those who fit into this category might include medical staff, individuals living in congregate care settings (senior center), people living in homelessness, or those living in crowded and substandard living situations such as multiple families sharing a one-bedroom apartment – a common occurrence throughout Santa Barbara County. The County Public Health Department (PHD) has identified this need and has agreements with local hotels to provide alternative accommodations for people whose current residence is not safe for quarantine/isolation. PHD expects to be reimbursed for a portion of the cost of these hotel rooms by government partners (FEMA), but reimbursement is partial (75% maximum). Some expenses required to support people in hotel rooms are also not reimbursable by FEMA at all such as social workers support, nurse visits, and transitional housing planning. Other critical supports such as food, onsite security, and transportation will likely be reimbursed by FEMA, but again, only up to 75%. Expenses that are not reimbursed are draining the already exceedingly strained medical and public health system in our County. The CNF is established to help cover the non-reimbursable costs of providing hotel rooms and supportive services in order to ensure we have the local isolation capacity necessary to effectively combat the virus and to assist in reopening our economy.
  2. Contact Tracing: A robust and diverse contact tracing program is critical to any strategy to prevent further spread of COVID-19 and reopen our economy. Generally speaking, contact tracing involves interviewing those who have tested positive and meticulously identifying anyone with whom those patients have come into contact. PHD has maintained a contact tracing program for decades to prevent the spread of diseases like measles, tuberculosis, HIV, and syphilis. This program had to expand significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In early May 2020, PHD approached UWSBC to see if the philanthropic/nonprofit sector might help build the capacity, diversity, and effectiveness of the County’s contact tracing program. UWSBC and leaders in philanthropy secured private funding to immediately engage 30 additional contact tracers through the Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara County (FSA). Integrating FSA employees into the County’s contact tracing program was a highly beneficial to the overall model and approach.  Almost all of FSA’s contact tracing team members were bilingual, and three were trilingual speaking Mixtec languages.

CNF Phase 3 Focus Areas:

  1. Vaccination Equity Project: Generally, funding will support strategies that directly connect with members of the target universe, educate them about the health value and importance of vaccinations, convince them to get vaccinated, assist them in signing up for appointments, follow through and support them to actually get vaccinated, and collect data and report on outcomes. Funding will be prioritized for direct contact with target populations via trusted messengers and collaborations between organizations. More specifically, fundable activities might include door-to-door canvassing, tabling, phone banking, text/email/social media outreach, direct outreach and engagement by trusted messengers, street outreach, scheduling appointments, and client-follow-up to confirm vaccination completion. Additionally, the VEP will consider specialized services to make sure people are able to schedule and get to their appointments such as helping navigate the appointment system/process, transportation, childcare, accompanying people to appointments, communicative assistance (such as ASL/translation), and working with medical providers to arrange a vaccination at home if necessary. The VEP may consider funding the development/production of culturally and linguistically relevant messaging and materials. Coordination of efforts and collaboration across organizations and systems will be imperative in any program or activities funded by the VEP. The state of California has charged PHD with leading efforts to serve specific under-resourced populations who need extra assistance in over-coming barriers to getting vaccinated. VEP funds will be prioritized for groups that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus and especially Latinx, immigrant, migrant, indigenous, and low-income residents; and those who work in agriculture, service-related, and other low-wage positions that put them at risk for viral spread.
CNF Funding - Vaccination Equity Project 

The VEP will consider strategies and programs targeting the populations listed above, but funds will be prioritized for groups that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus and especially Latinx, immigrant, migrant, indigenous, and low-income residents; and those who work in agriculture, service-related, and other low-wage positions that put them at risk for viral spread. The VEP will not fund services for people in congregate settings such as group homes or shelters.

Grant amounts will range depending on the size of the target universe, the challenge in reaching and serving especially vulnerable populations, and the degree to which certain populations have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. The VEP Grantmaking Committee will approve grants up to $75,000 but a grant of that amount would require a comprehensive, collaborative application targeting a large number of highly vulnerable and underserved residents.

Our friends at Romo & Associates serve as the managing consultants for the Vaccination Equity Project. All questions and inquiries should be directed to: Lee Heller, Special Projects Advisor, Romo & Associates, lee@romoandassociates.com.
CNF Management and Oversight:
The CNF is established as a primary fund where philanthropic investments can be safely made in order to efficiently and effectively meet community health related needs in the areas described above during this ever-changing pandemic. As needs and opportunities evolve, PHD will be a primary source of advice to the CNF as to what needs are most urgent and where philanthropic dollars might be directed. A Leadership Advisory Group has been established, supported by UWSBC, including representatives of PHD, the philanthropic sector, and nonprofit partners. The Advisory Group will meet regularly to assess progress of existing CNF projects, identify emerging needs and challenges, review CNF expenditures, and to ensure that donor intent is preserved. UWSBC will manage the CNF as a pass-through entity. UWSBC will receive requests for payment from funded partners and make payments depending on the availability of funds, consistent with donor intent.
UWSBC and FSA will submit documentation as necessary to help the County secure any reimbursement from FEMA or other government sources. If, in the future, reimbursement for any expenses covered by the CNF becomes available from government or other sources, those funds will be returned by the County to UWSBC. The County will periodically update UWSBC about the status of reimbursement requests. UWSBC will then work directly with funders to see that their refunded donations are re-allocated to other philanthropic purposes or returned at the direction of CNF funders.
PHD, UWSBC, and funder representatives will meet regularly through the Leadership Advisory Group to review results and activities of the CNF, assess needs in the month ahead, and communicate to funders what further support is necessary. If it becomes clear that CNF funds are no longer needed/justified, remaining funds can be re-allocated to other COVID-19 needs or returned to funders for re-granting consistent with donor intent. UWSBC will keep adequate books and records to substantiate all expenditures of CNF funds and shall make these books and records available to funders for review and inspection. UWSBC will work with County contacts to support recordkeeping and reporting by those partners as well. UWSBC will charge no administrative fees on funds coming into the CNF, as is its policy on all disaster related funding. However, unrestricted funds might be requested if the project becomes an operational burden to UWSBC.