SAN ANTONIO (May 4, 2020) — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Family Independence Initiative (FII), a national organization focused on alleviating poverty, has partnered with the H. E. Butt Foundation, City of San Antonio (COSA), Google.org and other donors to provide cash transfers to local families struggling financially because of the crisis.
It’s a part of #GiveTogetherNow, a rapid-relief fund FII created with Stand Together to get money to families most impacted by COVID-19. Around $5.5 million in local and national dollars has been committed to FII efforts to help mitigate poverty in Bexar County/San Antonio. Just over $2.9 million will go to #GiveTogetherNow, which has already distributed $500 cash transfers to close to 1000 local families.
For the City of San Antonio, the immediate COVID-19-related cash transfers via FII is one piece of a $25 million allocation to help jobless or furloughed residents pay for rent, groceries and other cost of living expenses. COSA said it will reach at least 10,000 households with its portion of the FII allocation.
“The funding from FII and the City of San Antonio will provide immediate relief to low-income residents who are struggling with the economic effects of COVID-19,” said Dr. Colleen Bridger, assistant city manager for the City of San Antonio. “We know that many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut, and this assistance will help them to pay bills and meet their needs now. This is just a first step as part of a comprehensive plan for addressing the potentially devastating economic effects of COVID-19 in a city already struggling with high rates of poverty.”
The general $2.6 million fund for FII—distinct from COVID-19 emergency funding—includes contributions from COSA, Methodist Healthcare Ministries, the San Antonio Area Foundation, and other local donors, plus a $1 million contribution from Google.org. The funds will be transferred over the next two years to San Antonio families through FII’s innovative capital exchange platform, UpTogether, where people experiencing poverty can not only access unrestricted cash transfers but also build and strengthen their social networks so they can work individually and collectively to achieve economic and social mobility.
“Google.org is proud to support San Antonio families during this challenging time,” said Hector Mujica, who leads economic opportunity efforts at Google.org. “We began supporting FII’s direct cash transfers to Texas families in 2018, and since then we’ve seen firsthand how FII can transform lives for the better. FII is doing incredible work in Texas and we’re thrilled to continue supporting their efforts.”
Founded in 2001 in Oakland, California, FII trusts and invests directly in families living with low incomes, acknowledging that the power to lift people out of poverty comes from the people themselves, in community.
According to Census Bureau data, 75% of low-income families move above the federal poverty line within four years, but half the households slip back under within five years. FII’s approach of leveraging families’ initiatives and ingenuity, and matching their efforts with cash transfers, is intended to help keep folks above the line.
“This is not just another nonprofit coming to town. This is systems-change work that lifts up the strengths that are already in these communities,” said Jesús Gerena, CEO of FII.
Before the pandemic hit, FII was in the process of expanding to San Antonio, working on that expansion effort thanks to a recruiting effort and round of fundraising led by David Rogers, president of the H. E. Butt Foundation. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated its local launch.
“We’ve long seen FII as an organization that can help us develop a different lens on local poverty while making it easier for families to access needed resources,” said Rogers. “It’s been encouraging to see our community rally around this initiative—and with COVID-19, it happened not a moment too soon.”
“We were planning to gradually recruit families into FII and make an official launch in San Antonio this summer, but we had to shift to a short-term emergency strategy because of the rapid rise in need,” said Ivanna Neri, Partnerships Director at FII.