COVID-19 Community Relief Fund: What You Need to Know

By United Way of King County, on March 31, 2020 | In News, Racial Equity

Our region, state, nation, and the world have not faced a crisis of the magnitude brought on by the coronavirus pandemic in generations. The needs of our community are enormous and growing by the day, as demonstrated by the record number of people who have filed unemployment claims in the last week.

Those needs are varied and changing, so United Way of King County is adjusting to the rapidly growing demand for services. As a demonstration of our community’s desire to help, United Way and several philanthropic and private organizations have launched multiple funds to support the thousands of people who need emergency aid now.

While the federal government is planning to send checks to a vast swath of the population, we know those checks will not be enough to meet the needs of many people in our area who live paycheck to paycheck, particularly because of our high housing costs. Workers who have lost all or part of their income will still need to buy food, pay for utilities and many other, unforeseen expenses that will emerge as this crisis develops.

We also know that people of color, who experience poverty at disproportionate levels, will be particularly hard-hit by the economic slowdown.

United Way, as an organization with deep roots in the region, stands ready to help those who need it most, so we launched the Community Relief Fund: COVID-19 to provide immediate help to people who have been impacted by the outbreak. Our tireless grantees, which work on the front lines of this crisis, provide us with the information we need to distribute the funds where they are needed most.

Why Did United Way of King County set up the Community Relief Fund: COVID 19?

United Way, along with our community partners, is experiencing both a surge in community need and an obligation to continue to deliver our programs in new ways. In order to be available to the populations we serve through programs like Bridge to Finish, Parent Child+, Reconnecting Youth and our Free Tax program, we are converting to online, callback systems and other flexible, responsive modifications. We cannot respond at the scale of the crisis without widespread donor support.

What are the most urgent needs the Community Relief Fund will address?

Access to rent, food and flexible assistance for individuals and families. Many people in King County were immediately affected by the pandemic. Loss of wages or loss of childcare, or both, due to school closures for people living from paycheck to paycheck, and in many cases without benefits like paid time off, result in not being able to make rent or purchase the recommended two weeks of groceries.

Are some populations more affected by the coronavirus outbreak?

While everyone is experiencing the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, for the most vulnerable in our communities, the impact is strongest. People experiencing homelessness do not have the ability to practice social distancing and heightened hygiene to prevent infection in the same way that other people do.

We are seeing immigrants, refugees, and communities of color experience disproportional impacts from the pandemic and its economic downturn.

How is United Way’s Community Relief Fund different from the Seattle Foundation’s fund?

Housed at Seattle Foundation, the fund makes grants to small, community-based nonprofits that are working on the frontlines to provide our region’s most vulnerable communities with emergency assistance, such as financial support, health care and child care. The Foundation is also helping to bring information to those agencies’ communities. United Way of King County is part of the coalition that formed the fund, along with philanthropic foundations and leaders in the business community, to quickly galvanize resources to support community-based organizations in their response to the crisis at the neighborhood level. In late March, the Foundation announced the first $10 million in grants to 128 agencies, including United Way, to address immediate needs, health support, information to allay fears in disadvantaged communities, and help for workers who have experienced loss of income.

Why does United Way need an additional fund?

  1. United Way is experiencing extreme demand from our granted agencies at the same time that the coronavirus outbreak has profoundly disrupted our usual fundraising activities.
  2. While United Way of King County and Seattle Foundation jointly launched the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, the donations go to the Foundation. United Way is participating in grant-making decisions, over and above United Way funded programs and agencies. United Way received a $1.5 million grant for our Home Base rental assistance expansion from that fund.

What about #allinseattle?

#allinseattle is a coalition of donors who have pledged $27 million to the COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts throughout our community. People who are participating in this initiative do not give to #allinseattle; rather, they donate directly to the organization of their choice. United Way of King County is prominently featured as part of the relief effort. Specifically, our food and rental assistance efforts are highlighted.

Our ability to help those who have been financially impacted due to the pandemic is only limited by the donations we receive. We thank those who have already contributed to the fund, and we welcome those who will support us in this endeavor in the coming weeks and months.


Janice Briggs
April 2, 2020

how would i get help?

Replies to Janice Briggs
United Way of King County
April 9, 2020

Hi Janice, we have a resources page that provides information that might help you.

All comments are approved before they are posted to the site.

All comments are approved before they are posted to the site.

United Way of King County
April 9, 2020

Hi Janice, we have a resources page that provides information that might help you.

All comments are approved before they are posted to the site.

All comments are approved before they are posted to the site.