Community Relief Fund at Work

People in our community who lost all or part of their income because of COVID-19 still need to pay rent, buy food and cover expenses as this crisis continues.

The more money we raise for our Community Relief Fund, the more people we can help. 

 An Inequitable Toll

Nationwide, we’re experiencing twin pandemics: COVID-19 and structural racism. Before COVID-19, Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities were facing disproportionate levels of poverty and food insecurity, among numerous other inequities, because of historic and current structural racism. 

That structural racism has resulted in inequitable barriers to generational wealth building, access to quality education, employment, housing and more. The pandemic has only exacerbated those inequities and our community is reeling because of them.

King County workers filing new unemployment claims:


American Indian/Alaska Native Asian Black/African American Hispanic/Latino Multiple Race Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander White
37.8\u0025 24.4\u0025 39.9\u0025 25.7\u0025 30\u0025 51.8\u0025 24.2\u0025

BIPOC workers in King County are disproportionately represented in unemployment claims, reflecting inequitable security in their employment conditions. (Source)

United Way’s efforts to intentionally address the racially inequitable impacts of the pandemic have included, but are not limited to:

Implementing participatory grantmaking, a funding model that cedes decision-making power to the communities impacted by funding decisions.

Working with nonprofit partners to spread the word in communities they serve.

Offering services online in 20+ languages.

To meet the needs of the community, we are focusing efforts across these three areas of our work–rental assistance, fighting food insecurity and supporting students.

Investing in Hardest-Hit Communities

$1.5 million dollars

The Black Community Building Collective started in fall 2020 as a participatory funding approach to invest $1.5 million in Black-led organizations. This group of 15 Black nonprofit leaders—who know their communities best—will determine how this funding is directed in order to support equitable recovery and long-term viability of King County’s Black community.

This approach is both innovative and proven—and creates new approaches by addressing historic inequities. Black staff at United Way have been instrumental in bringing the Collective together and donor dollars are making a second year investment possible.

$1 million dollars

With a $1 million investment, the Indigenous Fund supports the four founding organizations of the Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness, including Chief Seattle Club, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, Seattle Indian Health Board and Mother Nation. The funds are dedicated to housing and food, and the organizations are employing them for deeply culturally- rooted housing services.

Rental Assistance

Because of COVID-19, a little over one out of four Seattle metro area households reported at the end of February that meeting household expenses is either “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult”. One in five had either “no confidence” or “slight confidence” in making next month’s rent payment. 

Demographics of responses of “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” in paying household expenses:


Asian Hispanic/Latino Black Two or more races, other races White
29\u0025 45\u0025 17\u0025 48\u0025 24\u0025

Demographics of overall % of households in survey:


Asian Hispanic/Latino Black Two or more races, other races White
13\u0025 11\u0025 5\u0025 6\u0025 64\u0025

BIPOC households in the Seattle metro area disproportionately reported in late Feb. that paying for usual household expenses during the pandemic was either “somewhat” or “very” difficult, reflecting inequitable financial security in the community. (Source)

Despite a statewide eviction moratorium, rental debt is reaching staggering levels for families. Nationally, rental debt is at roughly $5,400 for people who are unemployed—and our work with the community shows that it is very often even higher locally. The eviction moratoriums have been great, but back rent will still be due. 

infographic with house icon and dollar sign icon with text "10,000 households received rental assistance"

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way has supported more than 10,000 households with rental assistance, covering back rent to help keep people securely housed and avoid potential eviction or homelessness.

76% of those served were BIPOC-led households, which is reflective of our intentional efforts to support disproportionately impacted communities. 

The need in the community is still significant, however: as of March 2021, there were more than 5,000 households waiting for rental assistance. We expect that number to grow. 

Donations to the Community Relief Fund will help us support more households with rental assistance.

Fighting Food Insecurity

Families continue to struggle to keep food on the table. Over one in 10 King County households received Basic Food—that’s some level of food stamp assistance—in February 2021. 

But hunger is not equal across communities. For example, 15% of Latino and 11% of Black adults in the greater Seattle area report not having enough food to eat in the last week—compared to just 5% of white adults.


Black Latino White
11\u0025 15\u0025 5\u0025

Because of donations to the Community Relief Fund plus supporting partnerships, we’re able to work with the community to fight food insecurity and provide hunger relief right now. 

Our Work Includes:

  • Delivering 3,900+ boxes of groceries to households each week through a partnership with DoorDash, United Way Worldwide, Safeway and dozens of Seattle area food banks. Just over half of those weekly deliveries are of culturally appropriate food.
  • Providing 2,000 meals each day to youth in 17 affordable housing communities in King County. 
  • Pop-up food distribution sites on area campuses, like Highline and Green River College.
  • Helping families access increased federal and state benefits to ensure available resources don’t go untapped—and our donor dollars can go further.
  • Deliver emergency food vouchers ($400 at Safeway) to 1,800 households and growing.
  • Provide food vouchers for undocumented workers—much of the relief being offered is not available to this group; donor investments are helping fill this gap.

Our partnership with DoorDash and Safeway is a particularly exciting use of existing technology, food resources and delivery system that’s reduced barriers and increased access to food. Over 70% of households receiving food have one or more person in that household that identifies as BIPOC, again reflecting our intentional efforts to support disproportionately impacted communities.

Here’s How It Works:

storage room with a conveyor belt containing several boxes with groceries

1. A box of essential groceries or bag of culturally appropriate food is prepared.

person wearing a Live United shirt loads a container of groceries into the trunk of a doordash car

2. A DoorDash driver picks up the food.

close up of a person organizing a box of canned foods

3. The DoorDash driver delivers it to a King County household in need.

Our ability to help the hundreds of households that are on the waitlist for this innovative food delivery service is limited only by our ability to raise more money. Donations to the Community Relief Fund will help us fight food insecurity and ensure more of our neighbors have food on the table.

Supporting Students

This pandemic has shown how having an education can help you weather a financial storm. From pre-K to college, we’ve adapted services to ensure students are able to continue their education during the COVID-19 crisis. For two groups, pre-K and K-12, some of this work has looked like:

A young child and and adult both sit and have their left hands raised while smiling and looking into a laptop monitor during an online learning session.

Pre-K Students

Shifting to virtual home early education visits for more than 1,100 families with 2- and 3-year olds. With financial support for tablets and internet access, home visitors were able to quickly adapt and continue. Early in the pandemic, donor dollars allowed us to invest in BIPOC-led ParentChild+ organizations so that they had flexible dollars to use as they were most needed.

K-12 Students

Supporting thousands of youth of color with a non-mainstream approach. A coalition of 14 BIPOC-led nonprofits provide culturally integrative services to youth of color, reconnect young people with a sense of positive ethnic identity and advocate for systems change.

Student sits at a table in a classroom, is looking down and writing on a piece of paper.

Community College Students

The pandemic has impacted community college students particularly hard. Through our Bridge to Finish work, in the last year so far we’ve seen:

Student working from home on laptop

1,499 students accessing support

65% increase in access to emergency grants, year-over-year.

115% increase in access to homelessness prevention assistance, year-over-year.

Through 10 campuses across King County, students have access to a number of support services, including food, housing, benefits access, and other services to help ensure they are getting the support they need to stay in school.

To increase accessibility and speed of getting emergency grants to students, we leveraged a new tool, the Edquity app. Since June 2020 we’ve supported 378 students through the app.

Further, because of COVID-19 relief, Basic Food (SNAP) eligibility has expanded for college students—however, more than half of eligible students haven’t been connected to the support. The Bridge to Finish team is working to enroll eligible students and ensure they get the support they need.

The Path Ahead

The Community Relief Fund has proven critical to helping people in King County. We will continue to focus on rental assistance and fighting food insecurity—and are committed to ongoing fundraising efforts. To maximize donor dollars, we will:

blue icon depicting bar graph with dollar symbols above each bar.

Aggressively pursue federal funds


Aggressively pursue federal funds

Private philanthropy alone cannot fund our road to recovery, and yet we cannot do it without private dollars. Building on the success and learnings from our rental assistance work, we’ll work to draw down more federal dollars for our community.

Icon with upper torso and heads of three people. a speech bubble appears above the person in the center who is positioned in front of the other two people.

Continue to influence public policy


Continue to influence public policy

We will stay active beyond this session to center efforts on advocating for Open Doors dollars—to advance racial equity, anti-poverty and homelessness policies and funding for youth of color.
We’re also focused on eviction prevention, strengthening tax credits and improving access to federal nutrition programs.

icon of two people standing next to each other, a double-sided arrow is placed between them depicting an exchange of ideas

Expand outreach


Expand outreach

We know that BIPOC-run orgs—having established trust and built relationships—often have better results serving BIPOC communities. We will continue to rely on these partnerships to help reach people who are struggling most in this economic crisis.


The need is only increasing. We need your help to continue to do more.

Thanks to our generous donors for their swift support of people impacted most by the COVID-19 crisis. Visit the Community Relief Fund sponsorship page for a list of businesses and individuals who have contributed to the fund.

Thanks to our generous donors and sponsors for making this work possible.