April 4, 2020

Telethon seeks to replenish depleted Silicon Valley coronavirus fund


SV@Home, American Leadership Forum – Silicon Valley, and SPUR joined forces with NBC Bay Area for a telethon broadcast, raising funds to help Santa Clara County residents who lost income due to the COVID-19 crisis and are struggling to pay rent and other bills.


By MARISA KENDALL | mkendall@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group

PUBLISHED: April 4, 2020 at 3:33 p.m. | UPDATED: April 5, 2020 at 4:12 p.m.


After an $11 million coronavirus relief fund ran out of money in just three days, Silicon Valley businesses and nonprofits have come forward with millions in new donations — even launching an hour-long telethon to drum up more cash.

The fund, intended to help Santa Clara County residents who lost income due to the coronavirus and are struggling to pay rent and other bills, raked in more than $5 million since announcing it had run dry a week ago. And that’s not counting money donated during a telethon hosted by NBC Bay Area on Saturday night, which urged viewers to text or go online to donate.

“For every person who can do something for another, if we do it now, if we give that little bit of money, if we volunteer — you are literally going to save lives,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said during the broadcast.

Fundraising totals for the telethon were not yet available Saturday night.

The fund launched last month with donations totaling more than $11 million from nonprofits, companies and local governments including Cisco, Destination: Home, the city of San Jose and Santa Clara County. But to the horror of everyone involved, it ran out of money and had to stop accepting applications after just three days. After 4,400 applications poured in, the fund’s administrators realized they wouldn’t have enough money to help everyone, and began directing those in need to an online waitlist.

Since then, that waitlist has ballooned to more than 7,000 households — all of whom are waiting in hopes that more funding materializes. With the state on lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Californians are out of work in record numbers. The state saw nearly 879,000 new unemployment claims filed during the last week of March — the most in more than half a century.

Local companies and organizations have responded. Cisco, which already had contributed $2 million, put forward another $2 million. Zoom, which had initially contributed $500,000, also upped its effort by pledging another $500,000. Among the other recent contributions: HP Foundation gave $300,000, semiconductor maker Marvell Technology Group gave $250,000 and Advanced Micro Devices gave $200,000.

To bring in additional funding, leaders from American Leadership Forum – Silicon Valley, SPUR and SV@HOME joined forces with NBC Bay Area to put together the hour-long telethon broadcast. John Sobrato of the Sobrato Organization kicked off the drive with an early pledge of $100,000.

“Without a doubt, this pandemic is the hardest thing we’ve had to face as a society,” Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said during the broadcast. “But times like these can also bring out the best in people.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo also made an appearance, urging people to donate.

“The responsibility’s pretty great on all of us at this moment,” he said.

But even after the recent donations and Saturday’s telethon, it won’t be enough to meet the enormous need in the county, said Jennifer Loving, CEO of Destination: Home.

“No matter what the amount is today, we know that we’re going to need more,” she said. “The need to support families in trouble here is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

To donate: Visit siliconvalleycf.org/coronavirus-fund or siliconvalleystrong.org/telethon or text SVSTRONG to 41444

To add your name to the waitlist: Visit sacredheartcs.org/covid19