For Michelina Palmer, the timing could not have been worse. Just two months before completing her studies at San Diego State University, the single mom found herself scrambling after the COVID-19 pandemic led the subsidized day care center her toddler son was attending for free to shut down. Then she was laid off from her job. Unable to afford the weekly day care bill at a new site, Palmer’s prayers were answered when Child Development Associates (CDA) stepped in with a $575 micro grant, financed through a $100,000 donation from the San Diego Foundation-administered COVID-19 Community Response Fund, to help cover the cost until the full-time student graduates in May.
“This grant is crucial; it could not have come at a better time,” said Palmar, a full time student earning a degree in comparative international relations who spends endless hours studying for and attending her courses, all of which have been moved online because of the coronavirus. “I was paying nothing for day care before, and now, suddenly I’m paying $250 a week with no job. It’s crazy.”
Indeed, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced public schools in San Diego County to close their doors, more than classes serving in excess of 500,000 students were cancelled. Preschool and daycare – along with free breakfast and lunch – for some of the region’s neediest residents were lost, too.
CDA and YMCA of San Diego County, Childcare Resource Service, which operate the two largest subsidized child care voucher programs in the region, are doing what they can to fill the void through the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund. Both are providing micro-grants ranging from $100 for food and diapers to $575 for child care costs to low-income, essential service workers and child care providers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Child care is also an immediate need right now,” said Eileen Calderon, Communications Manager at CDA. “These funds are supporting essential workers and low-income families who are struggling to afford child care services and are working long days. Even child care providers are having a difficult time keeping their doors open, but these funds will allow them to continue providing services.”
San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund
The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund makes emergency grants and interest-free loans to nonprofits that are working on the frontlines to provide our region’s most vulnerable communities with assistance, such as food security, other essential living expenses, emergent needs, and rent and utility payment support.
The San Diego Foundation grant is among the more than $2.7 million provided to nonprofits through the COVID-19 Community Response Fund to date, including $700,000 to the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank, $330,000 to the San Diego Hunger Coalition, $250,000 to the United Way of San Diego, $125,000 to Neighborhood House Association, and more. Emergency grants are made possible thanks to thousands of donations from donor-advised funds, businesses and individuals.
The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund underscores how community foundations are partnering with family foundations, businesses and government agencies to raise and grant funds quickly to those most in need and to ensure an efficient and coordinated response.
The $575 that in-home, child care provider Maria Belen Lopez received provides a glimmer of hope at a time when hope is hard to find. The coronavirus pandemic has decimated her business; where she recently was being paid to care for nine children, is now caring for just one.
“We’re struggling,” she said. “We’re struggling to buy supplies. We’re struggling to pay our bills. It has me panicking and unable to sleep at night. I don’t know how I’m going to survive this month. I hear from other providers and we don’t know what to expect.”
Approximately 2,000 microgrant applications have been sent to the CDA and YMCA, and that number is rising. Nearly 9 in 10 of the applicants are low-income workers, and 62 percent of the parents who have applied are considered essential employees. A little more than half the applicants are child care providers and 48 percent are parents in need of child care.
“There is a huge need in the community for these services,” Kim McDougal, Executive Director at YMCA Childcare Resource Service. “When school closed, a lot of families suddenly lost access to child care and a lot of the parents who are being affected are essential workers who have to go to their job.”
Help essential workers and other San Diegans impacted by COVID-19 by donating today.