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El Paso

New fund has $550,000 available for El Paso County families affected by the pandemic

EL PASO, Texas -- The County of El Paso, in partnership with the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation, El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization/Border Interfaith and the Family Independence Initiative, announced a new effort to put cash in the hands of families struggling with the Covid-induced economic slowdown and fighting their way out of poverty: The El Paso County Covid-19 Emergency Relief Assistance Fund.

At least 1,000 families in El Paso County will be able to use the Covid-19 Emergency Relief Assistance Fund to access up to $500 in unrestricted cash, which they can use to cover any expense or financial obligation. The initial fund will include $550,000 for 2020.

"We have all read reports that nearly half of Americans do not have enough cash on hand to meet a $400 emergency," said El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego. "And that was before the Covid-19 pandemic closed businesses and stifled economic activity across the region. Many aid programs create backwards incentives, requiring people to show how needy they are instead of how resourceful they can be. FII turns the traditional model on its head. This approach will be a game-changer for many in El Paso."

The fund will be overseen by El Paso County, and managed by FII's UpTogether platform, which during Covid-19 is processing more than $100 million in cash disbursements. By blending technology with community support systems, FII trusts and invests directly in people living with low incomes so they can work collectively to achieve prosperity. UpTogether allows people experiencing poverty to build and strengthen their social networks and access unrestricted financial transfers so they can support each other in accomplishing their goals. Since launching in 2001, FII has worked with over 4,000 households, who have seen average increases in their monthly incomes of 23 percent and in their personal savings of 400 percent. The end goal is to give families a boost out of poverty and move toward self-sufficiency.

"Our model is about letting families lead, rather than prescribing what they should be doing. Families living in poverty have the solutions to achieve economic mobility; we just need to invest in their initiative and goals," said Ivanna Neri, FII Partnership Director. "At this time of unprecedented economic upheaval, we are excited to work with El Paso leaders to introduce an approach that invests in the strength and initiative of low-income families while promoting and strengthening social networks."

FII will partner with EPISO/Border Interfaith to ensure that harder-to-reach families are aware of the El Paso County Covid-19 Emergency Relief Assistance Fund and that they are able access these new financial resources for families in our region.

Applications for the El Paso COVID-19 Emergency Relief Assistance Fund are available in English and Spanish at https://fund.uptogether.org/elpaso.

To be eligible, households must: Reside within the County of El Paso but outside the City limits of El Paso; have an income at or below 80% AMFI for the local El Paso County area or show eligibility for or enrollment in means-tested benefits programs such as SNAP; and provide documentation that they have experienced a financial hardship due to Covid-19.

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Mark Ross

Mark Ross is an anchor/producer for ABC-7.

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