Oakland educators are joining with community groups to ask teachers and other members of the community who have the financial means to contribute all or a portion of their soon-to-arrive federal government stimulus checks to help local families, particularly undocumented families, that are struggling to survive as a result of the public health and economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
One effort is backed by the teachers’ union, the Oakland Education Association (OEA), working closely with other organizations in the community.
“We are going to be working with a fund that Centro Legal and other community groups have started to support our vulnerable youth, particularly new-comer undocumented students, homeless youth and foster youth,” said OEA President Keith Brown.
Centro Legal de la Raza has created the Oakland Undocumented Relief (OUR) Fund to “provide critical support to immigrant Oakland workers who have lost their jobs and income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the aggressive public health measures necessary to combat the spread of this disease.”
“While many Oaklanders can turn to existing safety net programs, including unemployment insurance, public benefits, and new federal and local relief efforts – undocumented workers are largely excluded from those programs. OUR Fund will address this critical gap in our social safety net and will help support the most vulnerable members of our community who are impacted by this crisis,” according to the Centro Legal website.
In addition to the teachers union, this fund is backed by the labor union Unite Here! Local 2850, the Unity Council and Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) the Bay.
The OUR Fund so far has 2,000 applicants, of whom 9% are Oakland residents, and about 75% have kids. According to organizers, the fund has already raised more than $50,000 and has begun issuing $500 grants.
They expect to distribute 500 payments by the end of the month.
To be eligible, applicants must have worked in Oakland, must not be eligible for unemployment benefits and have lost their job or income due to COVID-19.
Organizers say that 100% of individual donations go to families. Foundation money will pay for staff and other overhead costs.
Another effort, started by principals and other Oakland educators, is working through a website, StimulusPledge.org, and is backed by the Oakland Unified School District and the nonprofit Oakland Public Education Fund, which is in charge of distributing the donations.
So, far, this effort has received 89 donations and 67 pledges from teachers, school administrators and community members, said to organizer Anita Iverson-Comelo, a principal at Bridge Academy in Oakland, quoted in the East Bay (EB) Times.
Iverson-Comelo said she decided to organize the fund-raising drive when her husband learned they would receive stimulus checks.
“I couldn’t in good conscience keep it,” she said during a news conference quoted in the EB Times. So far, teachers and administrators at eight schools have signed to support the fund.
“As principals, we know there is a huge need in the community. Everyone is struggling, but undocumented families receive the least support and are particularly vulnerable,” she said.
For information about the OUR Fund and to apply for a grant, go to www.centrolegal.org/our-fund/