While the outbreak of the pandemic sent the City into a fiscal free fall it also catalyzed a groundswell of community support to fund programs around food insecurity, business recovery and racial equity.
In March 2020, the City began collecting direct cash and in-kind donations to fund its COVID relief efforts and soon after established the We Are Santa Monica Fund. Since then, the City has received over $1.17 million in fund donations and over $160,000 in direct donations.
This money has provided emergency food to hundreds of residents, given essential PPE to frontline workers and helped create the City’s first ever Black Agenda. Most recently, it gave 78 small local businesses $5,000 in funding in partnership with the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce foundation.
This grant program seeks to uplift locally owned businesses that were hard hit by the pandemic. Almost half of grant recipients reported annual revenues below $250,000 and all recipients have less than $2 million in annual revenue.
“This has been such an unprecedented and challenging 18 months for our businesses,” said Jennifer Taylor, city economic development manager. “We know many business owners are still struggling with outstanding bills and expenses, and we hope these grants can provide extra support to our small business community.”
The business recovery grants also focused on the City’s goals of racial and economic equity. Over half of grant recipients were from low or moderate income census tracts and 50 percent of businesses are minority-owned or led by people of color.
In total, the City gave out $390,000 across 78 brick and mortar local businesses, but this still doesn’t match the needs of the local business community as 475 businesses applied. The City is urging all businesses interested in relief funds to apply to the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program by Sept. 30.
One of the other key focuses of the We Are Santa Monica Fund is fighting food insecurity and over $150,000 in funding has been allocated to the Virginia Avenue Park emergency food pantry.
The City launched this program in partnership with the Westside Food Bank in April 2020, and continues to give out pre-assembled food bags on a weekly basis. The We Are Santa Monica Fund has also supported food distribution programs at St. Mark Church, Santa Monica College and Meals on Wheels.
Over $100,000 in funds raised have been designated for the Black Agenda, which led to the creation of the 501c3 Santa Monica Black Lives Association. The organization is dedicated to police reform, economic development for black-owned businesses, education on black history and injustice and promoting the overall wellbeing of the Santa Monica black community.
Funding for all of these initiatives—business recovery, racial equity and food insecurity—is thanks to around 500 unique donations from individuals, nonprofits, businesses and the California Community Foundation.
The fund is still collecting money and donations can be made at calfund.org/wearesantamonica/