Stimulus checks are out, but the West Contra Costa Public Education Fund knows people still need help.
The group announced on Thursday it's partnering with the West Contra Costa Unified School District to raise COVID-19 rapid release funds for 300 more local families in West County.
Members have raised $105,000 so far for the Spring 2021 fund and is targetting another $170,000. The goal is to help support 300 families during the pandemic, with $500 rapid relief payments for basic necessities, like groceries.
"After conversations with our school principals, it has become apparent that the COVID response fund has been, and will continue to be, a lifeline for our families," said Robert Bunce, director of strategic partnerships for the fund, in a statement. "I feel such gratitude towards our community; when there is a need they go above and beyond for our kids."
The fund has raised more than $500,000 since March 2020, assisting 361 families, 61 percent of which reported using the money for rent. Beyond living necessities, money also went to helping close the digital divide with access to hotspots, digital licenses and supported communications efforts during the district's distance learning launch last summer.
The area's challenge of balancing work and school was highlighted recently in an NBC Nightly News segment on El Cerrito High School students and COVID-19's ripple effects on their families. Of the families receiving help from the fund, 90 percent said the pandemic caused them loss of employment or reduced hours.
"The pandemic forced us to change so many of the things we had become accustomed to," said district superintendent Matthew Duffy. "We had to change the way we learn as a district, how we distribute food, and how we connect with families and students. But through it all, the ed fund has been a calming and stable force, assisting us in ensuring that relief - whether it was food, technology, or rental assistance - was available for families in this time of need."
Donations can be made to the WCCUSD COVID-19 Students & Families Fund at www.edfundwest.org/take-action/donate.