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San Mateo Co. Immigrant Relief Fund Almost Depleted With Only Half of Demand Met

REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF) -- In a matter of months, San Mateo County exhausted 96% of its $10.6 million immigrant relief fund, while meeting only half the demand, city officials told the county board of supervisors Tuesday.

County management analyst Sophie Mintier said in a presentation that 10,156 grants of $1,000 each had been approved out of 22,745 pre-applications submitted as of Sept. 28. The fund started in July.

The fund provides financial assistance to low-income, undocumented San Mateo County residents ineligible for unemployment benefits or a federal stimulus check. It is administered by the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County and the non-profit Mission Asset Fund.

With a $5 million contribution from the Sobrato Organization, $2 million allocated in early July by the Board of Supervisors, plus other donations, the fund amassed a total of $10.6 million.

But it is not enough. Mintier said additional funding is needed to support the rest of their applicants, of which 46 percent had no monthly income.

Many applicants have also been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic -- 34% had contracted the virus or had a family member who did.

Applications were concentrated in North Fair Oaks, Redwood City, San Mateo and East Palo Alto.

John Sobrato, a real estate developer and founder of the Sobrato Organization, called on the board to fund an additional $3 million to match his $5 million contribution, which he originally requested in July.

"We're not done fulfilling the need," Sobrato said. "But the private sector can't do it alone. We need the board's leadership to set an example to energize the private community."

Jose Quinonez, founder of the Mission Asset Fund, also requested the board's support and commended partner organizations like Faith in Action which helped reach immigrant communities and provided one-on-one support to over 600 applicants.

They're also working with the Samaritan House to provide follow-up services to households.

Supervisors supported the fund and eventually agreed that they would be willing to provide an additional $2 million.

Supervisor Don Horsley said that it's time for the board to stretch its funds.

"Remember all that money is not going someplace else," Horsley said. "It's going directly into our economy locally and does have a multiplier effect."

Supervisor David Canepa said that for immigrant communities, programs like this one are their only choice.

"We live in extraordinary times. These are not easy decisions, but I do think this warrants us going all in," Canepa said. "People are just getting by. People are living in fear. If there's any way that we can help limit that, I'll be supportive of it."

Board President Warren Slocum challenged the Sobrato Organization to fundraise an additional $5 million.

Sobrato said it has been difficult getting the corporate community to donate and called on major employers to step up, as many of their now-closed office buildings would have employed some of the individuals that now rely on the fund.

The board requested that county staff prepare an agenda item recommending an additional $2 million contribution to the relief fund for its Oct. 20 meeting.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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