Pomona creates support fund for furloughed employees, asks community for donations

A big building sits at the end of a very green quad.
Pomona’s Board of Trustees has committed $100,000 to the newly formed Sagehen Employee Support Fund. (Lilly Haave • The Student Life)

Nearly a month after committing to move forward with staff furloughs amid faculty backlash, Pomona College administrators announced the creation of a support fund for furloughed staff and asked the community for donations.

The Sagehen Employee Support Fund, announced via email by administrators Tuesday, will provide financial support to Pomona staff who have been partially or fully furloughed as of Oct. 1. It aims to raise at least $300,000 worth of grants for “immediate needs” of furloughed staff, with $100,000 already committed by the Board of Trustees, the email said. 

The announcement, which was sent to students, families, faculty, staff and alumni, also asks for donations from community members. Donations to the fund can be made online, and staff and faculty also have the option to donate via payroll deduction, the email said. 

Under the fund, furloughed employees eligible for benefits can apply for tax-free grants from the fund of up to $1,500 beginning Oct. 15. The online application “will take no more than five minutes to complete” and will be available in English and Spanish. The grants will be disbursed via direct deposit or check, with an expected turnaround time of two weeks after the application is completed, according to the email.

“The staff at Pomona is comprised of a diverse group of folks and we, as members of the community, are committed to helping each other through this crisis and every crisis,” Staff Council Chair Justine Bae Bias said in the email. “We recognize there are staff members who are disproportionately affected by this pandemic and for those able to contribute, this emergency fund is a chance to support our furloughed colleagues as quickly as possible.”

“The money raised will barely make a dent in lost wages,” Bias said, but the fund “at least is an immediate response. We will continue to work on fundraising and other ways of supporting our friends and colleagues until we’re fully back on campus.” 

This fund is a joint venture by the Alumni Association Board, Staff and Faculty Charitable Giving Committees, Faculty Executive Committee, ASPC and the Board of Trustees, according to the email.

Pomona is partnering with America’s Charities, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity, to distribute the assistance to employees quickly. America’s Charities will review the application materials and process the grants so employees’ personal and financial information is kept private and secure, according to the email.

“Sagehens come together to help one another in a crisis,” Alumni Association President Don Swan ’15 said in the email. “This community effort offers a tangible way for those with the resources to help members of the Pomona staff facing the financial challenges of a temporary furlough.” 

Harvey Mudd College unveiled a similar Employee Emergency Relief Fund in September after furloughing employees. 

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