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Council Poised to Change Priorities for We Are Santa Monica Fund

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By Lookout Staff

December 2, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday is expected to expand the priorities for a fund established to support Santa Monica's recovery from the coronavirus shutdown.

Under staff's recommendation, the current "narrowly defined" funding areas for the We Are Santa Monica Fund would be replaced with "more broadly defined guidelines for accepting and disbursing funds."

This would "maximize the fund’s agility and flexibility to best meet evolving needs," staff said in its report to the City Council.

To date the fund -- which had received cash donations of $1,176,521 as of September 30 -- currently awards donations to eligible non-profits and emergency City services through the California Community Foundation (CCF).

It focuses on four areas that include relief for residents impacted by the virus to help pay for housing and food and to help support businesses impacted by the shutdown.

It also provides funding to support the Black Agenda and citywide efforts to "advance racial equity" and to support the Food Pantry at Virginia Avenue Park located in the Pico Neighborhood.

Currently, the funds must be used in connection with the four areas of support, staff said. Of the $1.176 million received to date, 92.5 percent of the funding was not designated by the donor to a specific area.

In June, the City Manager appointed a seven-member board that provides "input on allocation of funds to non-profit community partners and community-focused programs and services," staff said.

On November 3, the Board unanimously voted to recommend wider areas of support that include "promoting opportunities for workers, creators, and entrepreneurs to survive and thrive" and "supporting cultural organizations that make up the fabric of our city."

The support also includes "partnering with nonprofits that ensure that small businesses have the resources they need to keep their doors open, care for employees, and serve customers."

The fund would invest in programs that "advance equity, protect human rights and dignity, increase and celebrate diversity, foster inclusion, address injustice, and ensure access," according to the staff report.

It also would support an array of minority groups, while continuing to designate 10 percent of all undesignated donations for the Santa Monica Black Agenda.

In addition, the fund would support "healthy neighborhoods" by offering residents "nutritious food, spaces to exercise and play, places to live, and ways to improve physical and mental wellness."

It also would invest in "conserving energy and protecting our air, water, and natural places" and help those most in need.

Staff recommends that the advisory board "make recommendations for expenditures determined to be the most appropriate and urgent need in adherence to these established guidelines."

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