Oct 10, 2023 - News

New Richmond program gives cash directly to people in need

Illustration of a pattern of dollar bills fading from left to right.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A city fund that quietly launched earlier this year is providing direct cash assistance to Richmond residents in need.

What's happening: People struggling to pay rent, cover a down payment on a house or pay their bills can apply for up to $2,500 in one-time aid.

  • The program, called the Family Crisis Fund, has provided more than $700,000 to about 500 residents since January.

Why it matters: It's the first time the city has offered direct cash assistance to residents in need.

  • The program's supporters say the quick financial boost helps families stave off evictions and homelessness.

What they're saying: "It is the most tangible and impactful program that we have had in the city," said Councilmember Stephanie Lynch, who has a background in social work and spearheaded the program.

By the numbers: The city funded the program with $1 million in federal pandemic aid and an additional $900,000 in city funds.

  • Of money distributed so far, 66% has gone to housing expenses — either paying rent or contributing to a down payment on a home.
  • 21% has gone toward utility bills.
  • 7% covered vehicle-related expenses.
  • The remainder went toward phone, medical, internet and other bills.

Of note: Expenses are covered on a case-by-case basis and checks are sent to the entity ultimately being paid rather than the grantee.

Zoom in: A 35-year-old father of three told Axios that the $2,500 grant in August helped pull him out of homelessness.

  • The man, who spoke on the condition that he only be identified by his first name, Alex, said it covered a hotel stay, car expenses and the security deposit at his new apartment.
  • He said he'd likely still be homeless without the help.

The latest: The program's future had been in limbo up until last week when Mayor Stoney committed an additional $800,000 in surplus funds.

  • Without the additional funding, money would have likely run out in December, per Angela Hart of HumanKind, the nonprofit that administers the program.
  • Stoney's administration expects the money to maintain the fund through the end of the fiscal year in June.
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