City of Oakland’s COVID-19 CARES Act Funds Supported Thousands of Individuals & Businesses Most in Need

Date Posted: April 2nd, 2021 @ 2:32 PM
Last Updated: April 2nd, 2021 @ 5:52 PM
Photo of Saba grocery card distribution

Oakland, CA – A final report issued today by the City of Oakland shows that the $36.9 million in CARES Act funding allocated by the State of California last July was used to quickly provide direct financial assistance to Oakland’s most vulnerable communities, including Oakland renters, homeowners, small businesses, nonprofits, artists, displaced workers and home-based entrepreneurs through intermediaries with expertise in grant giving.

Additional funds were used to provide technical assistance and support programs for vulnerable communities and organizations, enhance food security, advance health and safety initiatives, support displaced and at-risk workers, and generally address the ongoing health, safety, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, nine City departments were given responsibility to disburse CARES Act funds over the City Council-directed service areas, which resulted in 27 discrete programs. All funds were allocated and expended by the December 30, 2020 deadline as required.

“City staff from multiple departments worked quickly to stand up grant and technical assistance programs to support Oaklanders struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “From helping feed hungry seniors to preventing small businesses from closing down to keeping families housed, we deployed our allotted CARES Act funds in short order to help our most vulnerable communities.”

The City used trusted community organizations to administer grant programs and provide technical support. Recognizing the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on our most vulnerable populations and with a clear mandate from City Council, the City and its many community partners ensured equity criteria were woven into programs to target resources to those most at risk.

In addition to the report issued today, the City launched a new CARES Act web page with information about all the CARES Act-funded programs and initiatives, including outcomes, detailed demographic data, photos, and testimonials (see examples below).

These programs collectively benefited a significant number of Oakland’s communities with the greatest need. For example:

  • More than 2,200 individuals, businesses, and organizations at risk of displacement received nearly $17.5 million in emergency funds through CARES Act-funded grant programs.
  • Of the individuals receiving grants, more than 86% were people of color
  • Nearly 3,600 workers, artists, vendors, small businesses, and non-profit organizations suffering economic hardship received technical assistance and other support programs. This assistance helped them weather the pandemic by learning new skills, finding employment, or pivoting their businesses or organizations to respond to public health requirements.
  • With support from CARES Act funding, more than 400,000 meals were provided to food insecure families and individuals.
  • Nearly 1,000 small businesses received needed personal protective equipment (PPE).

These are just examples of the impact of the CARES Act funds. More detail is presented in the report and the web page.

Examples/Testimonials from Oaklanders Helped by CARES Act Programs

An applicant and her daughter, part of a multi-generational household, both lost their jobs and owed more than $9,700 in back rent. The family received a $4,000 grant that went to their landlord and program staff helped negotiate a payment plan for the balance. Another applicant, a single father with a 10-year-old daughter owed nearly $8,000 in back rent after losing 70 percent of his income as a live event staff member. The family’s landlord received funds from a $4,000 grant and forgave the remaining $4,000 – allowing the father to address urgent childcare needs as he returns to employment.

“You have no idea what a lifeline this grant is for my business – yes, it will be put to good use toward back rent, bills and needed business expenses. This grant serves as a beacon of hope,” shared Sandra Varner, owner of home-based business August Varner Media.

“THANK YOU from all of us at BANDALOOP for securing funding for the arts and helping keep the stage lights on in Oakland while we wait for our audiences to return,” shared Thomas Cavanaugh, Executive Director of Bandaloop.

“We are deeply grateful for the notice that we have been selected as an Oakland CARES grant recipient,” said Precious J. Stroud, Founder of the BlackFemaleProject. “We are in the midst of an exciting growth period with revenue goals to build sustainability. During this time when so much is uncertain, women will be able to count on BlackFemaleProject for support and resources.”

“I am super grateful that I was able to take advantage of these workshops, they were just what I needed as I started to think about the company I wanted to create and why,” said Ashley Smiley, an independent playwright and producer. “Thank you for all this wonderful free programming. Super grateful, and thank you for having it up all to view on a later date.”

“My family and I got very sick with COVID in November. We couldn’t work, but we didn’t receive any help. My husband had to ask for a loan to pay the rent and the bills - these bills don’t wait…You have helped me with my food, I want to thank you for your help. You don’t know how much I appreciate it because truly I need it,” said a Sobrante Park Saba grocery card recipient. 

“With growing stress with less and less money, the Saba card was good to buy things I need. With the kids at home all day because of shelter in place all the expenses and bills go up,” said a Fruitvale Saba card recipient.

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Media Contact

Karen Boyd

Citywide Communications Director

(510) 449-4401

KBoyd@oaklandca.gov