UCB Mutual Aid Fund

5/14 Update
***Hi everyone,
Applicants to this mutual aid have reported that the university's official UCB COVID-19 Relief Funds program has run out of funding capacity for all students who are not FAFSA eligible, meaning all international students, all staff members, all non-DREAM-Act-recipient undocumented students, most graduate students, transfer students with fewer than three terms on campus, and student who have withdrawn this term due to the pandemic have no further avenue for institutional financial support at this time. This mutual aid program is continuing to serve these folks as best as possible, so please continue to contribute and share this campaign widely if you are able.

4/29 Update
***Hi everyone,
With the coming new month and the extension of stay-at-home orders in the area through May 31, we're looking to help as many students on our list as possible cover their immediate grocery and medical expenses through at least the rest of the semester. There are hundreds of students on this list, and new applications continue to roll in everyday. We've done a lot of great work, but the need amongst students and staff on campus is still acute. Please keep donating and sharing if you can. Thank you.

4/16 Update
***Hi everyone,
Over the last ten days, we've raised another ~4,000 - enough to bring our support up to ~170 students. Still our, applications are coming in as more and more members of the community hear about the mutual aid programs  - the surge is particular prevalent amongst a couple new networks our initiative reached - graduate students living in UC Housing and undergraduates affiliated with UCB MCC.

4/5 Update
***Hi everyone, We've  made a great push over the last week - enough to cover 138 applicants for weekly expenses since 3/30. Yet there's still work to be done - we have around two dozen students left on our waitlist, and we're turning over into a third week, which brings new challenges. Please keep sharing as widely as you can. Thanks.***

3/31 Update

Hi friends,

Over the last couple weeks, I've been helping administer two COVID19 mutual aid initiatives at UC Berkeley, where I am a PhD student in the English Department. I am writing here to share my observations about the needs of vulnerable community members that I've lately been observing.

When these programs were launched, my colleagues and I initially hoped to connect people volunteering their particular skills and resources with those who reported corresponding needs for such assistance. Instead, we were soon inundated by requests from students – mostly undergraduates – who asked for urgent, immediate help covering their expenses for food, medicine, pet care, and other essentials necessary to ensure their survival and the well-being of their dependents.

So far, as of 3/31, we've disbursed funds to 61 UCB students and staff members and their families in increments of $50-$150. All of this money has come from donations from graduate students, faculty, and members of our personal networks (via social media shares, email blasts, etc.). However, as of today,  our fund ran completely dry with a waitlist of 88 students.

I am deeply troubled by the hardship that these students are expressing in their accounts of their recent experiences. I am also extremely concerned that they seem to share a sense that UC Berkeley is not there, able, or willing to help them. 

All applicants who received aid have asked for assistance with their essential expenses for food or medication, and many have also included desperate appeals for greater outlays (far beyond our capacities) to help take care of their dependents, meet rent obligations, and continue academic life at Cal in general. Many are undocumented students, otherwise lack SSN#’s, or are claimed as dependents and therefore will not receive Treasury Department checks in April. Others have exhausted their loan privileges from Financial Aid, their paid/sick leave through work study, and other known avenues of recourse through the university.

Indeed, before disbursing funds, I notify students about the following campus financial aid / emergency resources of which I am aware. This list has been partially generated through feedback we’ve received from the Office of Equity and Inclusion and campus organizations, like the Educational Opportunity Program, devoted to protecting vulnerable students. Applicants routinely report their lack of qualification and/or inadequate experiences with these avenues. 

-For Undocumented Students (both G and U): https://undocu.berkeley.edu/usp-services-3-10-3-27 / https://undocu.berkeley.edu/financial-aid-for-undocumented-students/emergency-grants/

-ALL Students interested in emergency support from Financial Aid, especially those who have lost wages through Work Study, can fill out a case requesting financial support here: https://studentcentral.berkeley.edu/open-case. Students should mark their application as *Other* if the case is unrelated to financial aid. You will hear back within 48 hours.

-Emergency Rental Assistance Fund: https://advocate.berkeley.edu/emergency-rental-assistance-program/

-Cost of Attendance Adjustment: https://financialaid.berkeley.edu/cost-attendance-adjustment

-Technology Needs: https://techfund.berkeley.edu/impact/laptop-and-wifi-hotspot-lending-program  / https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScQWuYc09t3PwZgCzmPRBUuqaQMQz_SGUag4nHweBvvOtHiAw/viewform

-ASUC Food Pantry Project: https://undocu.berkeley.edu/legal-support-overview/asuc-food-pantry-project/

-Basic Needs Center's Food Assistance Program: https://financialaid.berkeley.edu/food-assistance-program

-CalFresh and the Berkeley Food Pantry

-Short-term Emergency Loans: https://financialaid.berkeley.edu/short-term-emergency-loan 

-Work Study Supplements from Financial Aid Office 

A representative account of these resources is the following, quoted from an undergraduate who applied to us for aid:

“I have tried everything except the one for undocumented student, since I am not one I don’t qualify for that. I also exhausted my COA and emergency loan, because I did not start work this semester. I have been sick, since the beginning of the semester and I end up needing surgery back in February. In order to provide for my family, I exhausted all my loans. I still have $1000 left on my work study, but since I am not able to work due to the corona virus and having a compromised immune system, I could not risk it. I tried turning my work study into a loan, but I don’t have unsubsidized and subsidized loan available, so it did not let turn it into a loan. The only thing left for me is this CAL COLA and that Corona Stimulus check that the government voted on, however we don’t know when will that disbursed.”

In short, we feel this is an unusual situation in which even a donation of $100 could help someone in the community extend their ability to weather the pandemic and survive until larger institutional interventions are made (to this end, Cal COLA is also supporting or organizing campaigns for fee reimbursements (as has recently been announced in the UC Maryland system) and rent freezes on UC properties (like the UC Village). 

If you are interested in helping with this work, there are a few ways you could help besides donating to this page. You could contact me directly at rumur.dowling@gmail.com to discuss making a financial contribution directly to a potential recipient, and then we'd work from there. If you prefer, you could contact me about transferring funds directly to me instead of via GoFundMe and then discuss how you'd like your funds to be distributed, if you have a preference. You could share this page more widely than I can through my own networks, or you could reach me to discuss any other questions or ideas you have for this initiative.

The beneficiaries of these funds are those who fill out the mutual aid initiative forms here:

The Berkeley English and Comp Lit Depts: 

The Cal COLA Movement:

Funds are dispersed by me or co-organizers of this fund electronically to applicants as speedily as we can process applications, distribute information, and secure + confirm transfers. 

Thanks for taking a look.


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Rumur Dowling 
Berkeley, CA
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