We Lead: COVID-19 Joint Response Effort

Featured in the County Connections Report: Together, We Can


At the Santa Barbara Foundation, we know that when disaster strikes  partnership and collaboration are essential as we navigate initial disaster response and long-term recovery efforts in our communities. That was true during the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow, and it rings true today as we approach 9 months of living in a global pandemic.

Since March 2020, the Santa Barbara Foundation (SBF), United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC), and the Hutton Parker Foundation have been leading a countywide funders’ collaborative, along with members of the Foundation Roundtable and others, to help our community during these challenging times.

The goal of the collaborative is to provide financial support to struggling individuals and families in Santa Barbara County, as well as the nonprofit organizations who serve them. Between 34 local funders, just over $18.9 million in funding has been mobilized to support our communities during the pandemic, as of October 31.

The collaborative has proven to be effective in providing a transparent and inclusive process that encourages the exchange of information about community needs, facilitates a coordinated and timely response, and maximizes resources for the community. The Foundation is proud to be one of the organizations leading this important philanthropic partnership.

Learn more below about the different types of COVID-19 relief grants, how they have benefitted our county, and where we continue to see critical needs in our communities.

A key part of the collaborative is the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort Grant Program. Through this joint effort, grants are made to nonprofits through the Santa Barbara Foundation’s Community Disaster Relief Fund and to individuals and families through UWSBC, in partnership with the Family Service Agency. To date, the Joint Response Effort has received more than $4.6 million in donor contributions. More than $3.9 million has already been distributed to nonprofits and families throughout Santa Barbara County.

Helping the Helpers: Grants to Nonprofits

Through the COVID-19 Joint Response Grant Program, grants of up to $25,000 have been available to nonprofit organizations serving all regions of Santa Barbara County through SBF’s  Community Disaster Relief Fund. Recognizing that this is a crisis with no immediate end in sight, the Foundation and our Grant Selection Committee are managing the Grant Program strategically in order to have the greatest impact on the long-term recovery of our communities.

Girls Inc. Santa Barbara and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County are just a few of the organizations who have received COVID-19 Response Grants.

Organizations that have received COVID-19 Response Grant funding include Girls Inc. SB and the Boys & Girls Clubs to support the shift to remote and socially distanced youth programming; 805Undocufund and CAUSE as they continue to uplift working families and immigrant communities; Doctors Without Walls and Domestic Violence Solutions in their work to provide health and safety services to those who have been adversely affected by the pandemic; plus so many more. Click here to view the full list of Grant Recipients.

With a Grants Committee featuring representatives from SBF, UWSBC, Hutton Parker Foundation, Santa Barbara County VOAD, and Aware & Prepare, the Foundation has managed the distribution of funds to 158 nonprofits in Santa Barbara County. However, the need still far outweighs funds available – we have received grant requests from 290 different organizations for a total of over $6.7 million.

Over the past few months, the COVID-19 Joint Response Grant Program has prioritized organizations that are meeting emergency needs and adaptive services. Going forward we will continue to focus on those areas, while also prioritizing requests for operating support – but we will need you help to do so.

Over the past few months, the COVID-19 Joint Response Grant Program has prioritized organizations that are meeting emergency needs and adaptive services. Going forward we will continue to focus on those areas, while also prioritizing requests for operating support – but we will need you help to do so.

Supporting our Neighbors: Grants to Individuals and Families

The COVID-19 Joint Response Effort also provides grants, via United Way, to individuals and families disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and the economic consequences of the pandemic.  Additionally, the City of Goleta, the City of Santa Barbara and the County of Santa Barbara have awarded United Way a combined $2.6 million in CARES Act funding to offer Emergency Rental Assistance Grants to eligible individuals and families. The funding from the City of Goleta specifically provides financial assistance for income-qualified senior citizens living in Goleta.

To date, UWSBC has awarded 2,362 Individual Assistance and Rental Assistance grants through the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort and CARES Act to some of our most vulnerable community members. In total, the UWSBC has distributed about $2.4 million to help struggling households secure and maintain basic needs, cover unexpected child care and education expenses, and recover from loss of wages due to business closures and social distancing measures.

“[The] support was timely,” said one Individual Assistance Grant recipient. “Everything was weighing on us… the award a gave us a moment of hope and a feeling that everything is going to be okay.”

While the Joint Response Effort has been able to bring hope to more than 2,300 households, more than 3,000 households (representing more than 10,000 individuals) have applied for assistance – indicating that there is still a large unmet need.

Accordingly, we continue to raise funds to support qualifying individuals and families in need. In partnership with Family Service Agency, United Way continues to conduct remote interviews with all applicants to verify information and needs.

“Never have we been challenged to work harder to mobilize philanthropic capital for the benefit of Santa Barbara County,” said Jackie Carrera, President & CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “We are humbled by the tremendous outpouring of care and compassion from our donors, community and corporate leaders, nonprofit partners, and colleagues in philanthropy. We are honored to work with each of you. We will get through this together.”

To learn more COVID-19 Response Grants or how to give to the Community Disaster Relief Fund, visit

For more info on Individual Assistance Grants, Rental Assistance, and Financial Assistance for Seniors, visit

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