United Way Agencies Provide Help During Pandemic
By Dianne Anderson
Only the name has changed, but the same great United Way services are expanding to help so many more in the community devastated by COVID-19.
Kim Starrs, vice president of external affairs with the Inland SoCal United Way, said through their numerous partners and donors they can now reach more people in need across both counties.
Recently, the Inland Valley United Way, which covers most of Riverside County, partnered with the Inland Empire United Way, now renamed the Inland Socal United Way. In partnership with the County of Riverside, they are also offering a housing assistance program and rental help.
“We think this is the largest investment in rental assistance in the country to take care of the community. It’s a $33 million investment in rental assistance for the entire county for anybody who has been financially impacted by COVID and behind on their rent,” Starrs said.
She commended the Board of Supervisors setting up a fund to address the impact of the pandemic on the unemployment in manufacturing, retail, and hospitality sectors.
Qualifying applicants for rental assistance can receive up to $3,500 or three months of rent completely covered. She said income qualifications are generous, and fits most of the rental demographic. The county program will help 10,000 households, with preliminary data showing that many applying for help are woman heads of households, which typically involves young children.
They are also partnering with the city of Riverside and United Way of the Inland Valley to offer microenterprise grants of $7,500 for small businesses with five or fewer employees. To qualify, applicants must have a business license in the city of Riverside.
The CARES Act funding has requirements to get the money, which takes from 4-6 weeks, but she said staff will walk applicants through the process. The grant targets low to moderate-income business owners, such as nails, hair salons, or pool cleaning businesses.
“We are really encouraging folks to head on over and apply,” she said. “[It’s for ] just real entrepreneurs going out there and making a life for them and their families, that’s the target of that grant.”
They are also partnering with Arrowhead United Way, which serves the city of San Bernardino, and surrounding communities and the mountain areas, particularly with the Inland Socal COVID Response Fund.
Starrs said they operate the 211 call center non-emergency 24/7 hotline for both Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The phones have been ringing off the hook. Call specialists work 24 hours a day with translation into more than 100 languages.
“211 is an easy to remember number you can dial anytime, anywhere to get help,” she said. “Our call volume has increased by about 400% since March.”
Gwendolyn-Dowdy Rodgers, Interim CEO and President of Arrowhead United Way, said that locally there is still a lot of work to be done.
She said they are reaching out to those that need help, and those that can give help.
“We are continuously working with the community for basic needs and rental support for those that have been affected by COVID,” she said. “Those are the premises for how we’re determining who will are able to support and the families.”
She said that Arrowhead United Way continues to support the San Bernardino area that they service, including grants to be allotted to at least 30 community-led organizations that supporting others in the grip of the pandemic.
The $5-15,000 grants are available for organizations that are serving the community, which they have identified.
Equally important, they are letting donors know they need funding for programs, including those who have not been directly immediately impacted by COVID-19. Across the board, she said there is still an enormous level of assistance that the agency needs to meet.
Students are not going back to brick and mortar schools for now, but she said it’s still necessary to get supplies for students.
“San Bernardino Unified has all the electronic devices, but we [Arrowhead] serve other areas. We want to make sure our surrounding areas meet the needs of their students, and we’re able to provide that support that they may not have available yet,” she added.
For more information or to request help or grants, see