In their final court meeting before the holidays, the El Paso Commissioners Court voted unanimously to move forward with a proposal to invest $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act dollars into Up Together, a direct cash assistance program for families in need. Up Together’s approach recognizes that people living with low incomes are already taking actions to improve their lives and invests in their initiatives with unrestricted dollars.
The philanthropic community, including the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation, had already agreed to match the county contribution with $400,000, putting the combined total to $900,000.
“We are very encouraged,” said Rosa Lujan, a leader with EPISO and Border Interfaith. “This is a great model and gives people the dignity to work their own way out of economic strife. We want to thank the county and the Hunt Foundation for their leadership.”
EPISO/Border Interfaith mobilized and worked quickly with the county and the philanthropic community to organize direct cash payments through Up Together, specifically intended for these excluded families. Between 2020 and 2021, the county and philanthropy leveraged over $1,000,000 for 1,323 families.
Given the ongoing need, leaders from EPISO and Border Interfaith have been advocating for continuing direct cash assistance for families.
Claudia Garcia from San Juan Diego in Montana Vista shared a story about her daughter who is suffering from the long-term effects of COVID, including epilepsy, respiratory problems, anxiety and depression, which is also having a long-term financial impact on her medical bills. “This affects me a lot because I continue to feel the havoc of COVID” said Ms. Garcia. “The only thing I can say is keep supporting [families] because so many of us continue in battle.”
“The public needs to understand that this money is used very well,” said Judge Ricardo Samaniego. “It helps improve a family’s conditions, and this helps the economy. So the return on investment is very, very good.”
Eloiso De Avila, a leader with EPISO/Border Interfaith, said he was “exhilarated" with the outcome.
“This program takes people out of poverty and helps people immensely,” De Avila said. “We hope that, by the county doing this, the city will be inspired to follow suit.”