Yelm Relief Fund Has Awarded Nearly $7,000

Yelm Mayor JW Foster and his wife Nicki Foster were the initial driving forces behind the Yelm Community Relief Fund. 

Thanks to the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund established under the federal CARES Act, the Yelm Community Relief Fund has added a whopping $27,405 to its coffers. The Rotary Club of Yelm will benefit, too: It will receive $5,000 of that amount to help finance its summer feeding program for youth.

The relief fund — created in early April to help qualified local residents impacted by the COVID-19 crisis pay their bills, buy groceries and meet other critical expenditures — was founded as a community partnership between Yelm Mayor JW Foster and his wife Nicki Foster, the Tumwater-based nonprofit TOGETHER!, and America’s Credit Union Foundation (ACU).

As of Tuesday, June 16, the fund had raised $23,000 in donations from Yelm-area citizens and distributed $10,237 to 29 eligible applicants. Donations included $3,518 from Jason's Greenhouse in Yelm, $2,500 from Windermere Real Estate in Yelm and $10,000 from the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation to primarily benefit area residents who reside in Pierce County.

In addition, TOGETHER! distributed $10,417 to 13 applicants through funding from Help Us Move In, Inc. (HUMI), a national program devoted to preventing families from becoming homeless or evicted.

To date, the program has received 143 total requests from Yelm-area residents seeking $151,687 in financial aid, and families have so far received an average of $359 per month in assistance out of a maximum possible allocation of $500 per month for the majority of applicants.

Donations and requests have increased as the second month of the Yelm Community Relief Fund came to a close, and to Foster that's welcome news.

“My gut feeling is that people are becoming more aware that these funds exist, and we should start to see more applications coming in,” he said. “It's been gratifying to see that the donations are coming in, too.”

According to Ari Rogers, TOGETHER! Community Schools manager, relief fund money has helped pay costs for housing, phone/internet, water, garbage, and utilities, among others. Along the way, funding has helped ease COVID-19-related challenges for people in a variety of professions. They've included restaurant waiters, dental care workers, home care assistants, cemetery workers, house cleaners, freight drivers, and more.

And in an unusual, but generous twist, 24 people who had been approved for a total of about $15,000 relief fund money rescinded their requests because they subsequently received money from other sources.

“I think the program is working exactly as it was anticipated,” Foster said. “And I'm glad to see the types of bills the program is helping people with. Those were the things making it difficult for people to keep pace with the cost of living while their revenue stream was adversely affected.

“The need is still great, and our capacity will always be less than the need,” he added, “but with the help of the community we will continue to do the best we can to get everyone through this. When you see this kind of support from people who just want to help, it makes you feel pretty good about living here.”

Interested in donating to the Yelm Community Relief Fund?

It’s easy: Simply visit any America’s Credit Union branch and make a tax-deductible donation to the Yelm Community Relief Fund through the ACU Foundation. If you have an ACU account, you may be able to contribute through your online banking application.

Yelm area residents in need can go online to apply at this link:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfdDHBCU3CquioIWADm6jjMykae7F9T8qoHYYKVCuCvVFyV6A/viewform.

At the same time it was able to invest in the community relief fund, the city of Yelm — which received $274,050 through the CARES Act — has also infused $109,620 into a new business grant program to help local businesses recover lost revenue during the state-mandated shutdown and offset costs to reopen under Safe Start Washington guidelines. Based on need, level of impact, and relief already received from other sources, Yelm businesses may be eligible to receive a grant of up to $2,500.

“It's not a huge amount of money, but everything helps,” Foster said. “The program should help our local businesses get back on their feet and get our economy rolling again.”

Business grant applications may be accessed here: https://www.yelmwa.gov/document_center/News/COVIDBusinessGrantApp.pdf

(Note: Applicants must download the form and open it with Adobe Reader, save it, and email it. The form can not be filled out through a web interface.)

And for businesses worried about having enough hand sanitizer for their employees and patrons, there's good news on that front, too.

Yelm has purchased a 55-gallon drum of “the good stuff” from Sandstone Distillery in Tenino. Yelm businesses that bring their own containers may obtain one gallon of the sanitizer per week by visiting the city's Public Works building at 901 N.W. Rhoton Road.

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