The SEA Benevolence Fund was created in 2009 by the SEA Board of Directors. It was developed in response to the Great Recession and in anticipation that many SEA members or their family members could face job loss, wage cuts, or become victims of the mortgage crisis. Knowing how these financial hardships, plus whatever else life had to throw in the mix could affect members, the Board wanted to create a pathway in which union brothers and sisters could voluntarily help each other when faced with a financial crisis.
The SEA Board of Directors developed and adopted a policy for the fund, which included the formation of an ad hoc committee to help oversee the program and an application and review process. To get the fund off the ground, the fund was appropriated $30,000, with the intent that it would become self-sustaining through donations from members who wished to regularly give to the program. A payroll deduction was created for that purpose. The hope and assumption was that the number of contributing members would continually grow and SEA’s appropriation would decrease.
Four years into the program donations have dropped significantly. This year’s SEA budget appropriated only enough funding for the program as we projected to receive in fundraising. The number of members applying for the program remains low but still outpaces fundraising. Presently, less than 2% of SEA members give to this program and less than 2% of the membership benefits from the program.
As a result, the Board is now studying the future of the program. At this time, however, applications surpass funding. We urge members in need of assistance to contact the SEA before applying to see if there are any remaining funds.
We may find we must suspend the program, at least initially, until sufficient fundraising replenishes the appropriation. We welcome donations to the program and hope that those of us who are able will decide to share with those of us who are experiencing financial hardship.