The Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) has created the Ventura County Rapid Response Fund to help all affected individuals, families, nonprofits and small businesses due to COVID-19.
VCCF began the fund on March 13 and estimated that $25 million would need be raised to support the community.
“There is an abundance of need,” says Vanessa Bechtel, president and CEO of VCCF. “Every dollar makes a difference. If we all pitch in, we can help our neighbors.”
VCCF has partnered with the County of Ventura, Amgen Foundation, Southeast Ventura County YMCA, Give An Hour and the Economic Development Collaborative (EDC) to support these efforts, along with securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors, emergency responders and others on the front lines. Other essential items include baby monitors and iPads to communicate with family and friends for those stuck in isolation.
“It’s really critical that those on the front line have PPE; it’s like a war zone out there,” says Bechtel. “We are negotiating the purchasing of certain equipment on behalf of our community.”
Individuals and families living in Ventura County making less than $50,000 can apply for direct financial assistance distributed by Southeast Ventura County YMCA to help with food and housing support, childcare, wage replacement, mental health care and other needs. Bechtel says she has heard stories such as a mother being laid off from work having to take care of her sick child with cancer and wondering how she would be able to pay the medical bills.
“Their stories are heartbreaking,” says Bechtel.
Bechtel says hundreds of individual and family applications have been submitted and money is being distributed in rounds, with the first round being $120,000 by April 10. Applications can be submitted through the form on the VCCF website, RapidResponseVC.org.
“We have more applicants than funding,” says Bechtel. “We are trying to get funding out as rapidly as possible.”
VCCF has also partnered with 805 Undocufund for undocumented service workers to receive individual assistance. Bechtel says more than 1,700 families applied within the first 24 hours. VCCF is also working in partnership with Future Leaders of America, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project and The McCune Foundation to assist these types of individuals.
“We need to raise millions of dollars for this,” says Bechtel.
The Rapid Response Fund will also help nonprofits with unrestricted and general/charitable needs affiliated with the COVID-19 response. Money will also be distributed in rounds.
Bechtel used FOOD Share as an example, which delivers food every month to 76,000 people in the county and began using mobile pantries to deliver food.
“(In one day) the mobile pantries almost ran out within an hour,” says Bechtel. “The need is extensive and it requires a rework of logistics. So many food pantries are closed and they need the flexibility to buy food and supplies.”
Bechtel used another example of caretakers unable to show up to work to bring items to senior citizens in isolation.
“These organizations need unrestricted support to deal with new need,” says Bechtel. “There are more barriers than normal.”
Small businesses needing resources and funding can also apply. The VCCF board recently approved a $125,000 challenge grant to help Women’s Economic Ventures provide businesses with low- and no-interest loans. Bechtel says with the EDC partnership, the nonprofit had more than 1,000 small businesses reaching out for help within the first week.
“(On average) they work with 900 or more per year,” says Bechtel. “They need capital to get to these slow businesses. It’s about getting bridge funding so that they have the tools to continue to operate.”
Applications for small businesses will be ongoing. Small business owners seeking assistance should schedule an appointment through the EDC website.
“We have to stay committed and open,” says Bechtel. “By giving, volunteering and helping to spread the word by taking small action, we can maintain a resilient community.”