ASUC COVID-19 Financial Relief Committee discusses allocation of funds

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The ASUC COVID-19 Financial Relief Committee met Saturday to discuss updates on the allocation of the COVID-19 Financial Relief Fund to various campus organizations.

Committee vice chair Aditya Varma said, although there are some UC policies that could possibly prevent the group from giving money to Registered Student Organizations, the policies do not necessarily prohibit the work the group is trying to accomplish.

“We looked through the policies, and there’s nothing in there that specifically stops us from administering the aid in the way that we want to,” Varma said at the meeting.

Varma noted that the committee is still speaking with LEAD Center Associate Director Megan Fox to determine if UC policies restrict the committee’s goals.

Chief Legal Officer Jedidiah Tsang added that the USAC — UCLA’s equivalent of the ASUC — also has a COVID-19 fund. In the USAC, the funds were taken from the organization’s discretionary budget, according to Tsang. He added that he had reached out to the financial units of the USAC to request more information.

“This work is very important, and it deserves to be prioritized,” said committee chair and ASUC Senator Romario, who does not use a last name, at the meeting. “Folks don’t deserve to be hungry; folks don’t deserve to be homeless.”

The committee then moved to discussion with the organizations seeking allocations from the relief fund. In total, the fund had $64,080 to allocate.

ASUC Senator Nicole Anyanwu told the committee that the ASUC Housing Security Fee Committee was removing itself from receiving an allocation of the relief fund, noting that the group has unused money from student fees.

“If we got more money, my worry would be that it wouldn’t be depleted,” Anyanwu said at the meeting.

Bear Pantry funding will go toward continuing to serve between 85 and 120 families twice per week. The ASUC Student Advocate’s Office, or SAO, is seeking to support more applications to its fund, which helps students afford medical copays, among other projects. Members representing Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education, or RISE, are seeking to help their community with issues such as living costs.

Next, the committee moved to vote on the percentages of the fund that would be allocated to each group — at present, the SAO will receive 35% of the funding, Bear Pantry will receive 25%, RISE and the Basic Needs Center will together receive 15% and the Berkeley Student Cooperative will receive 10% of the funding.

Among the present members of the committee, the proposed allocations passed unanimously.

Romario noted that the committee must continue to urge campus administration to support its relief efforts, in addition to allocating the funds.

“If we really want to see these allocations come to fruition, we’re going to have to put in the effort to get this done,” Romario said at the meeting. “If there’s anything I’ve learned on this campus, it’s that you have to put in effort to get tangible results.”

The committee plans to meet two more times this academic year.

Sebastian Cahill is a deputy news editor. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SebastianCahil1.