SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department announced today it has increased access to scholarships for recreational programming, allowing more than 3,000 individuals to qualify for assistance. It also streamlined the process for applicants by requiring income verification every two years, instead of every year. The Department raised the income threshold to $61,400 and made the income verification last for two years, greatly reducing the burden on families.
“In San Francisco, we want to provide opportunities to access quality recreational programming for all our residents,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “By providing these additional scholarships, the Recreation and Park Department will provide greater access to quality programs to our families, youth, and children growing up in the City.”
The Department provides close to a million dollars in scholarship assistance each year in order to ensure that ability to pay is not a barrier to participation in everything from swim lessons to summer camps. Additionally, any resident of Public Housing is entitled to enroll in programs for free. Everyone from youth to seniors are eligible to apply for scholarships.
“As we are approving the City’s annual budget, we want to make sure that we do not leave behind those who are most in need in our City,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen, who is also the Chair of the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee. “We are committed to dedicate funding for recreation scholarships for our low-income families that will help provide healthy recreation equity for all neighborhoods.”
In addition to significant support from the City, the scholarship program is supported by philanthropic donations totaling close to $1 million in the last decade. The most recent fundraiser, Crabfest sponsored in partnership with the SF Parks Alliance, brought in over $50,000 to support scholarships.
“Currently, SF Rec and Park has 3,086 children and adults qualified to receive our recreation scholarship, and we have provided $1,007,000 of scholarship this fiscal year alone,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Park General Manager. “This is just one of the Department’s many efforts to ensure everyone can access and enjoy our parks no matter who they are.”
“In our city, parks are everyone’s backyard, and we’re thrilled to work with RPD to help ensure all residents have access to recreation opportunities and facilities — a critical public resource that enhances life here in San Francisco,” said Drew Becher, CEO of the San Francisco Parks Alliance.
SF Rec and Park’s recreation scholarship policy change is also a response to the widening income inequality among residents in the City. In 2014, San Francisco’s Human Services Agency issued a report indicating the economic trends that not only the City’s middle class has been shrinking, but the gap between the wealthy and poor continues to widen. The report also shows that San Francisco has the highest proportion of very wealthy persons compared to other major cities such as Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City.
Some of the presented solutions from the report to this trend are: better integration with social services; address needs of families just above income eligibility criteria; and address the isolation of low-income families. As a result, SF Rec and Park is now increasing the qualification of income threshold for recreation scholarship, and expanding qualification period as ways to increase access to recreation programming, and provide inclusive recreation environment for more diverse community bonding for more residents.