May 7, 2020  |  Austin COVID19

Close to $2 Million in COVID-19 Relief Funds Distributed to 1,000 Austin Families in 72 Hours

National nonprofit Family Independence Initiative distributed the funds in partnership with more than 30 local community organizations

AUSTIN, TEXAS (May 7, 2020) Less than a week after receiving $2 million from the City of Austin Equity Office to distribute to families for COVID-19 relief, the Family Independence Initiative (FII) has dispersed nearly all of the funds, getting financial support to 1,000 families in just three days. 

The national nonprofit received the money as part of the $15 million Relief in a State of Emergency (RISE) Fund approved by Austin City Council. Eligible households received one-time financial support of $2,000 through FII’s technology platform, UpTogether, which deposited the money directly into their bank or other accounts.

“My family and I are using the money to pay for our car insurance, buy hygiene products, pay bills, food and our immediate needs. We will stretch those dollars as much as possible,” said one family from North Austin.

“The current crisis facing the nation and our community is unprecedented. The twin disasters of the pandemic along with the economic crash have upended the lives of so many families,” said City of Austin Equity Officer Brion Oaks. “We were eager to partner with FII because they have nearly a 20-year record in providing direct cash assistance to families. We needed a partner that understood the sense of urgency to mobilize quickly, and believed in the power of people to make the best financial decisions for their families during this crisis.” 

To ensure the funds got to families hardest hit by the pandemic – and fast – FII teamed up with more than 30 local community groups who work with the most vulnerable communities in the City of Austin. The partner organizations selected have relationships with the communities highlighted by Austin City Council to receive emergency direct financial support. 

“We wanted to ensure different communities that often get left out from efforts like these were invested in. Groups like the formerly incarcerated, LGBTQ+ communities, seniors, domestic violence victims, immigrants and citizens who work in the cash economy,” said Ivanna Neri, FII partnerships director. “The community partners selected have been on the front lines serving these communities before this pandemic, which uniquely positioned them to quickly identify families.”

“As an agency that works directly with people who have been in prison, I can tell you that this direct cash financial support of $2,000 provided families impacted by COVID-19 with hope and joy. This is relieving tremendous pressure from their families and they are now able to pay rent, bills, food and more,” said Latreese Cooke, founder and executive director of MELJ Center.  

Last month, FII partnered with Stand Together to launch #GiveTogetherNow, a national rapid-relief fund to get financial assistance to families impacted by COVID-19. #GiveTogetherNow is a joint effort of more than 250 nonprofit and community groups across the country and is supported by major philanthropic organizations and leaders, including Stand Together Foundation, Blue Meridian Partners,, DeVos Family Foundation, Stripe and Schultz Family Foundation. To date, the campaign has generated more than $40 million dollars for families. FII’s partnership with the City of Austin Equity Office is a part of this national initiative.

“Our victims of domestic violence were being held back because of lack of money. With this financial support they are now able to stabilize their lives, get out of the shelter, give utility deposits, rent deposits, car payments and as matter of fact, we are placing families in permanent housing because of that direct financial relief,” said Courtney Sanatan, CEO at the Survive 2 Thrive Foundation. 

For more stories about the impact of these dollars, click here.


Full list of community groups FII partnered with:

About Family Independence Initiative

Family Independence Initiative trusts and invests directly in people living with low incomes so they can work individually and collectively to achieve prosperity. Through our technology platform, UpTogether, people experiencing poverty can build and strengthen their social networks and access unrestricted financial transfers so they can support each other in accomplishing their goals.

On average, households in which Family Independence Initiative invests increase their incomes by more than 20 percent and their personal savings by ten times over a two-year period. Learn more at

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