Moving Forward Together

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County of San Diego and Jewish Family Service Announce Completion of RAFT Program

Nearly $9 Million in Funding Granted to Low-income San Diegans Post-COVID

San Diego (Feb. 12, 2024) – The County of San Diego and Jewish Family Service of San Diego have announced the successful completion of the Recovery Action Fund for Tomorrow (RAFT) grant program – assisting 2,243 low-income families and seniors and distributing $8,972,000 in cash to those in need in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In May 2023, County of San Diego health officials announced the federally-funded program – which offered $4,000 one-time payments to area residents enduring financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic – encouraging low-income households in select zip codes to apply. After completing the application, qualifying seniors and families were selected by lottery from among 22,237 applicants. The initiative was funded by $10 million from the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan, enacted in 2021 to change the course of the pandemic and deliver economic relief for American workers.  The County of San Diego Office of Evaluation, Performance, and Analytics is leading the evaluations.

“The COVID pandemic showed us firsthand the health disparities in our region, resulting in more than one million San Diego County residents on Medi-Cal and 375,000 in need of food assistance,” said Chairwoman Nora Vargas. “With a focus on providing the necessary financial support for low-income families, this initiative went beyond just helping at-risk families and seniors overcome challenges. We also tackled the growing demand for flexible funds. By connecting recipients to resources, we ensured that the community got the maximum benefit from these funds, enabling us to support them in planning for a brighter and more hopeful future.”

Administered by the nonprofit Jewish Family Service of San Diego, which pioneered guaranteed income programs that provide direct cash assistance in the region in 2022, the RAFT initiative had several qualifying criteria. According to Khea Pollard, director of economic mobility and opportunity for Jewish Family Service, the program served residents of the 39 Health Equity zip codes of the county disproportionately impacted by COVID, focusing on households with an income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Participants were also prioritized who were at-risk for homelessness.

“As a result of the pandemic and soaring inflation, families lost jobs, cars and homes – especially those in local areas hardest hit by the pandemic,” Pollard said. “The RAFT grants have been thoughtfully used by families and seniors in need, with data revealing that the largest amount of grant funds was spent on real estate services (e.g. rent and mortgages), with an average spend of $849 per household. In addition, 30% of funds spent by participants went to food and groceries, 23% to retail and sales (such as Costco and Target), and 16% provided transportation assistance, including gas costs. Of note, 23% also remains saved or unspent by RAFT participants. This program further proves the need for guaranteed income to help Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), low-income and differently abled San Diegans work toward the economic security they need to thrive.”

Suley L., a recipient of RAFT funds, acknowledged the program’s value going forward, and said “We have struggled with economic security, so it’s definitely going to put us on the right path to building a future and foundation. It has given me more drive and more purpose – more hope.”

The RAFT program is proud to partner with Steady, a mission-driven social impact platform focused on supporting low-to-moderate income Americans. As part of this partnership, RAFT is one of 20 guaranteed income and direct cash assistance programs, with more than 18,000 participants, being tracked nationwide for valuable data and analysis. JFS is using this data to help inform its programs moving forward.

For more information on the RAFT program and its impact, visit Please note the program is now complete, and no new applicants are being accepted.

About Jewish Family Service of San Diego – Moving Forward Together
Founded in 1918, Jewish Family Service (JFS) is one of San Diego’s most impactful nonprofit agencies – providing resources and support to over 95,000 people every year. Through integrated services, the organization empowers people of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds to overcome challenges, set goals, and build more stable, secure, and connected lives. JFS is committed to helping individuals and families move forward, while developing innovative strategies to break cycles of poverty and strengthen our San Diego community.  

To get help, volunteer, or support JFS, visit or call (858) 637-3000.


Media Contacts:

County of San Diego:
Meghan E. Breen, Office of Chairwoman Nora Vargas | County Supervisor, First District
[email protected], (619) 518-6612

Jewish Family Service:
Sandy Young / Molly Pincherli, J. Walcher Communications
[email protected] / [email protected], (619) 295-7140