Seven community philanthropy groups throughout the Bay Area have announced a new partnership: a region-wide disaster relief campaign that will cover 10 counties, including Santa Cruz.
People around the Bay Area have been stepping up during the ongoing historic storm that has been testing the region's infrastructure. Since the storm began, individual calls for donations have been floating around social media; GoFundMe pages for local businesses affected by flooding are springing up like mushrooms; emergency shelters and services are working around the clock.
But as the maelstrom continues, local government is getting stretched thin. In some places, including San Francisco, limitations to county flood relief campaigns have shifted the recovery burden back to individual homeowners.
Community foundations, a type of localized philanthropic organization, from Santa Cruz, Silicon Valley, Sonoma, the East Bay, Marin, Napa, Solano and San Francisco have begun a cross-county partnership to provide disaster relief funding to local nonprofits.
In San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, the Silicon Valley Community Fund is stepping up to the plate with a project seeded at $50,000.
It's not much to start with, but the fund will be a permanent fixture.
Nicole Taylor, president and CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, expressed that as the number of life-threatening emergencies affecting the Bay Area population has increased over the last several years, a standing relief fund has become a necessity.
"The incessant disasters pummeling our communities these past few years – from COVID and wildfires to now the devastating atmospheric rivers – have shown us that communities facing existing inequities are always the ones most disproportionately affected by catastrophic events," Taylor said.
In Santa Cruz, a county which has seen immense damage to its already strained infrastructure, the local Community Foundation is already primed to send funding to local nonprofits.
The foundation is accustomed to acting as a liaison between people's immediate needs and assistance from local government, said CEO Susan True.
"(We) fill the gap in timing and eligibility for public disaster resources. State and federal aid will be essential for our long-term recovery. Our dollars will be smaller than public funds but fill a unique role in our ability to immediately respond and serve folks that won't be helped by public dollars. In the immediate crisis, we are trusted as a place where neighbors can help neighbors."
That is not the case everywhere in the Bay.
According to the Chronicle, the city of San Francisco has been less and less keen to provide financial support for residents and businesses affected by flooding, leaving those affected high and dry — figuratively.
The City passed a local ordinance in 2019 that prioritized flood prevention and preparation, which shifted the onus of flood recovery onto individual property owners. During the historic storm in effect, those in flood-prone places like Mission Creek, Portola and more are seeing limited options for recovery.
Foundations like SVCF, the Marin Foundation and other philanthropic organizations around the Bay Area all focus on their respective regions, but the Emergency and Disaster Fund by the SVCF is all-encompassing.
"We know that disasters don’t know county borders, which is why we’ve launched a regional fund that will support the entire Bay Area region in addition to our two core counties," said Taylor.