Although UC Santa Barbara has made its spring quarter online and many students left both campus and Isla Vista for their hometowns, the Isla Vista Tenants Union is helping to ease the financial burden of UCSB students’ unexpected coronavirus-related costs with its new COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
The emergency fund — which started with $56,250 and aims to help cover temporary housing, moving and storage costs due to the coronavirus pandemic — is being distributed through an application to determine each student’s level of need. The maximum a single student can receive is $300.
The emergency fund consists of remaining funds the Isla Vista Tenants Union (IVTU) would have spent on spring programs had the coronavirus pandemic not occurred, according to IVTU Chair Alex Young.
As of April 15, the IVTU has conditionally approved $55,800, roughly 99% of its total available funds, for 186 out of 294 applicants, Young said.
“Moving can include gas costs for moving home, renting moving vehicles, hiring a moving company, moving supplies, and plane or train tickets to fly home; Storage costs include renting a storage unit; and Temporary Housing includes expenses such as hotel, motel, or Airbnb costs,” Young said in an email.
After the conditionally approved aid is distributed, the fund will have just $450 left, but Young said he is expecting to receive additional funding over the next two weeks from the Associated Students (A.S.) External Vice President for Local Affairs (EVPLA) office. He did not specify how much the IVTU expects to receive.
EVPLA Christian Ornelas said in an email that his office has “set aside about $3-4k should [IVTU] need more money,” and that “The uncertainty of this whole situation has put people in a tough spot.”
Alongside the IVTU, institutions throughout I.V. and the UCSB community have worked to abate the economic blow that the coronavirus crisis has dealt to students. The UCSB Graduate Student Association created a coronavirus relief grant and the A.S. Senate recently allocated $80,000 to student financial relief groups, including the Financial Crisis Response Team.
While IVTU’s emergency fund does not cover lease payments, the financial burden for many students comes from monthly rent payments to which they are contractually bound, even if they left I.V. to return to their hometowns.
Ornelas said that although he no longer lives in I.V., he still has to pay $800 a month in rent for a four-bedroom home with eight other people.
Many students signed leases in January for housing in I.V., but IVTU lawyer Robin Unander said she is concerned that the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a UCSB remote fall quarter, which would “not leave great options” for the students who have already signed their 2020-21 housing contracts.
However, for those without leases going that far ahead, Unander said that it could lead to a housing crunch where rental prices increase due to the massive, immediate demand for housing.
“During [fall], there’s not very many rentals left. And there’s a lot of students; if we’ve got a lot of people [securing housing in the fall], this could get really, really complicated,” Unander said.