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Stepping up in response to COVID-19

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WEA Individual Crisis Fund
Since May 2020, the WEA Board has awarded nearly $1.4 million in financial assistance to 2,444 members hurt by COVID-19 reductions. A benefit of being in a strong union like WEA is that we are united — and we support each other.

The events that 2020 had in store for the world could not have been predicted.

The novel coronavirus outbreak showed us the gaps in our social safety net and the systems that we urgently need to fix.

But what this crisis has also exposed in the past year is the way in which people guided by their hearts are stepping up to support each other in extraordinary ways. Stephanie Gallardo Lara, a Tukwila educator and WEA Board Director, says seeing community members step up to support communities most impacted by COIVD-19 where the government failed prompted her to convince the board to help. Last fall, the WEA Board approved Gallardo Lara’s proposal to allocate $300,000 to local nonprofits serving the needs of communities disproportionately impacted by COVID.

"I saw it as an opportunity for our union to practice what it preaches when it comes to community organizing and standing in solidarity through challenging times," says Gallardo Lara, who chairs the Early Career Educator Committee and is a NEA Board Director. "Contributing funds and volunteer efforts is one of the best ways to invest in community partnerships."

To ensure that funds were distributed equitably across the state and reached the most people, a committee of Board volunteers decided to use a hybrid process for distributing the funds. They agreed on the following criteria, prioritizing educator-led mutual aid efforts; BIPOC-led mutual aid organizations; organizations that serve indigenous communities, immigrant, refugee, undocumented communities, houseless people, elderly populations, people with disabilities or are immunocompromised, and organizations that meet a culturally specific need.

"We split the funding two ways, the first half to be decided upon by each council, and the second half was open to a statewide nomination process," she says.

Each of WEA's 22 councils had $5,000 to determine which local non-profit or mutual-aid organization would receive the funds if they fit the criterion. The remaining $190,000 was open to a statewide nomination process where WEA members could nominate an organization from their community. Each organization will determine how it will use the funds to best aid its community. The funds are not to be used on administrative costs.

The recipients "are all very local, which was the intention," Gallardo Lara says. "We knew that local presidents and members would know the best organizations to contribute to which is why we gave them the autonomy to decide and who to nominate."

COVID-19 Community Relief Fund Recipients
Caring for Kids (Fircrest) Rainbow Advocacy Inclusion and Networking Services (Longview)
Family Promise of Skagit County (Sedro-Woolley) Lavender Rights Project (Tacoma)
Champions of Diversity Scholarship Program at Skagit Valley College (Mount Vernon) Horn of Africa (Seattle)
Lake Burien Presbyterian Church c/o Alimentando el Pueblo (Burien) Mutual Aid South King County (Seattle) 
Children of the Valley (Mount Vernon) Stanwood Camano Foodbank Services (Stanwood)
Safe Harbor (Kennewick) Camp Ten Trees (Seattle)
Community 2 Community Promotoras (Bellingham) Youth Voices for Justice (Seattle)
Latino Community Fund Washington State (Seattle) Familias Unidas por La Justicia (Burlington)
Sunrise Outreach Center (Yakima) Namaste Garden (Tukwila)
The Red Barn Youth Center (Lakebay)

2nd Harvest - Bites 2 Go Program (Spokane)

Fish Line (Poulsbo) Chief Seattle Club Housing & Homeless Prevention Programs (Seattle)

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