9,000 applicants force United Way to hit pause on pandemic fund
A flood of 9,000 applications in five days quickly caused the United Way of Miami-Dade to stop accepting more as it distributes $20 million in federal funds for those hammered by the pandemic. Applications are to reopen in several weeks once the initial flood is dealt with in first-come, first-served funding.
The county days before had chosen the United Way for the distribution job due to its experience in providing immediate emergency assistance and relief for families and individuals during the pandemic.
Developed by the county, the Miami-Dade Pandemic Assistance Program is to address short-term economic hardship through financial assistance for basic living expenses such as food, utilities, childcare, medical expenses and rental assistance.
“Our county’s collaboration with United Way of Miami-Dade will ensure that residents receive the assistance they need to make it through this pandemic,” said Mayor Carlos Giménez when the program opened to rapidly approve the distribution of the federal funds.
The pandemic assistance program, funded by the federal CARES Act, aims to continue helping asset-limited, income-constrained employed individuals and families impacted by the economic fallout and who have had a significant loss of income due to unemployed or underemployed.
Since mid-March, United Way has been providing emergency assistance through its Miami Pandemic Response Fund, allocating more than $3.6 million raised for individuals, families and small businesses impacted by Covid-19, said Maria Alonso, United Way’s president and CEO. “We are committed to getting this money out as quickly as possible because we know our community is hurting,” she said.
Depending on household size and income, individuals are eligible for up to $1,000 and families with three or more members can receive up to $2,000, Ms. Alonso said. “54 % of families are living paycheck-to-paycheck in Miami-Dade County who are an emergency away from poverty and now with the pandemic, it has exacerbated an already difficult situation.”
After the launch Aug. 5, United Way had to put a pause on accepting submissions after receiving over 9,000 applications in less than 100 hours, Ms. Alonso said. “It speaks volumes on the terms of need that we have in our community.”
Each application is to be reviewed one-on-one, which might take a couple of weeks, she said. Once all submissions are reviewed and approved, she said, the application process will re-open until the $20 million is exhausted in the first-come, first-serve style fund distributing.
“When you look at the sector of small businesses, tourism and hospitality, the county has realized that we are all struggling together,” Ms. Alonso said. “They see the abundant need in our community to help fill that gap and see us through this difficult time.”