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County leaders unveil COVID-19 relief program for low-income families, seniors

The entrance to the San Diego County Administration building in this file photo taken Dec. 13, 2020.
Alexander Nguyen
The entrance to the San Diego County Administration building in this file photo taken Dec. 13, 2020.

County officials, joined by Jewish Family Service leaders, announced a COVID-19 pandemic relief program Friday for low-income families and seniors, going live Monday.

The one-time, $4,000 allocations are intended to help low-income people who live the 39 county zip codes hit the hardest by COVID-19, particularly families and seniors at risk of becoming homeless, a county statement read.

The Recovery Action Fund for Tomorrow program was developed by Jewish Family Service and funded by the county with federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. To be eligible, people and families must earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level, which ranges from $29,160 a year for a single person to $60,000 for a family of four.


"I noted in my State of the County Address in February that at the height of the pandemic, I heard firsthand about the hardships people were going through as they tried to make ends meet and stay in their homes," said County Board Chairwoman Nora Vargas. "We know that struggle continues for many. We want this money to help people overcome those hardships."

The RAFT application opens Monday, May 8 and stays open through midnight, Sunday May 21. A total of 2,250 families or people will be selected randomly from the pool of applicants by Jewish Family Service to receive the money.

Those who receive the $4,000 allocations can use them as they see fit on their most urgent needs and they do not have to pay the money back, the leaders said. The money can be electronically transferred directly into people's bank accounts, Venmo/PayPal accounts or gig work platforms.

"At Jewish Family Service, we are already seeing immense benefits from a similar program we launched last year," said Khea Pollard, director of economic mobility and opportunity for JFS. "We know that direct cash assistance programs are a very effective and efficient way to reduce poverty and increase equity in our communities and we look forward to working on RAFT with the county."

To apply, residents will need to submit documents to show they are eligible, including their identification and proof of household income levels. Documents can include driver's licenses, passports, green cards or state IDs, 2020 or 2021 tax returns, Social Security documents or enrollment paperwork for assistance programs like CalFresh or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.


Nick Macchione, director of the county's Health and Human Services Agency, said the county hopes the RAFT funding can be a lifeline.

"This one-time cash payment can be life changing for those recovering from the pandemic," he said. "This can help families, seniors and our most vulnerable neighbors secure permanent housing, invest in reliable transportation, or get over an economic hurdle."

For more information about the program, go to the Jewish Family Service website starting Monday.