The ASUC COVID-19 Financial Relief Committee met Saturday to discuss the financial and legal parameters of the allocation of its fund for vulnerable communities during the pandemic.
The meeting started with committee chair ASUC Senator Romario, who does not use a last name, discussing what his intentions are for the fund, which he hopes will prioritize undocumented students, student-parents and independent students. He said he feels current federal and campus grants and funding are not sufficiently providing for these communities.
“This work has always been centered around supporting communities that are currently lacking support,” Romario said at the meeting. “We’re in a unique position where we have a little bit more autonomy.”
The committee then heard an update from Jedidiah Tsang, ASUC chief legal officer, who said he spoke to legal counsel and LEAD Center Associate Director Megan Fox about the fund. Tsang said university policy may prevent the committee from allocating money derived from student fees to Registered Student Organizations, or RSOs, that would then distribute funds to individuals in need, as was originally intended.
He added, however, that the committee could still give money to organizations such as nonprofits and funds, including the Basic Needs Center, the Berkeley Student Cooperative and the ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Textbook Scholarship.
Many members of the committee said they were concerned about how this could affect the timeline of distributing the money. Legal counsel also said the committee should advertise the fund to all students, despite the committee’s intention to give money only to certain communities, which Kyndall Dowell, who works in the ASUC External Affairs Vice President’s office, said they were disappointed about. They questioned the emphasis on equality “when we really should be thinking and working with an equitable lens.”
“I’m really struggling with understanding the whole need to treat every student and approach every student group as if they are the same or have the same needs,” Dowell said at the meeting.
Tsang assured the committee that while information about the fund would have to be distributed to all students, the actual money could be allocated exclusively to students who qualify according to the committee’s intentions and rubric.
Romario said at the meeting the fund currently has $42,450, but he predicts the final amount will be about $50,000 after various ASUC commissions donate. He added that, if RSOs could donate, he predicts the number could double and that he hopes to make this happen.
The rest of the money is coming from senators’ and executives’ discretionary funds. The committee plans to pass the funds through the ASUC Finance Committee with a resolution and will be deciding where to allocate the money at its next meeting May 2.
“We all want to get money to folks as soon as possible,” Romario said at the meeting.