ASUC COVID-19 Financial Relief Committee administers funds

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The ASUC passed a resolution administering funds from the COVID-19 Financial Relief Fund to selected organizations Wednesday.

Of the total $74,096.53 COVID-19 Financial Relief Fund allocation, 35% will go to the Student Advocate’s Office, 25% to the Bear Pantry, 15% to the Basic Needs Center in collaboration with the student organization Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education, 15% to the Basic Needs Center independently and 10% to the Berkeley Student Cooperative. These allocation percentages were decided in coordination with community members.

The COVID-19 Financial Relief Fund was financed by unused funding for programming events that were canceled due to COVID-19, most of which was from the ASUC’s internal carry-forward fiscal account. Additional funding was provided through donations from various campus and ASUC organizations.

The fund was the result of a proposal from ASUC Senator Romario, who does not use a last name, which led to the creation of the COVID-19 Financial Relief Committee.

“During these times especially, it is important for us to recognize our points of privilege and do our best to assist and advocate for others who (are) unable to receive government funding and in some cases institutional aid,” said Kyndall Dowell, who works in the ASUC External Affairs Vice President’s office, in an email.

According to committee vice chair Aditya Varma, the initial plan for the relief fund was to deliver direct cash aid to students. This proposal, however, was restricted by policies from the UC Office of the President on campus organizations, and senators felt cash relief efforts would slow how quickly the money reaches those in need. 

The committee ultimately resolved to allocate funds to campus organizations instead of individual students.

“Our committee deliberately focused on uplifting communities that are not being directly centered by federal or state relief efforts,” Varma said in an email. “While we were unable to give direct financial relief, we are confident the organizations we chose will be fastidious and dedicated in serving these communities.”

Varma added that the fund will focus on communities including first-generation students, undocumented students and low-income students.

The pandemic has impacted these student populations with particular ferocity, Varma said. He added that 26% of UC Berkeley students are first-generation college students, more than 500 students are undocumented and 27% of undergraduates receive federal financial aid.

“Many of my friends haven’t been able to pay a fifteen-dollar expense,” Varma said in the email. “As the campus student government, it is our responsibility to do all we can and use all resources available to ameliorate student burdens.”

The distribution of the relief funds will be handled by the Student Union’s Business and Finance Team, which will communicate spending guidelines to the recipient organizations and ensure the allocated funds are spent in an appropriate manner.

Contact Blake Evans at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Blake_J_Evans.