Op-Ed | The excluded workers fund is changing lives

From the time I used to be little, I’ve at all times lived my life by a motto: life is like a bicycle. Irrespective of how laborious it will get, crucial factor is simply to maintain on biking, or else you’ll fall down. 

I’ve confronted a whole lot of challenges in my life, however the pandemic was the primary time that I felt like I couldn’t carry on biking. It was solely due to the Excluded Workers Fund that I made it by. The fund, established earlier this yr to assist working households like mine who weren’t eligible for pandemic reduction applications, has been life changing. Now, as state lawmakers head into a brand new finances season, it’s essential that they increase the fund additional so that every one people who find themselves in a position to apply can get the funding they want.

My story resembles that of many different working individuals whose lives had been turned the other way up by COVID-19. Earlier than the pandemic, my son, the principle breadwinner in our household, was taken by ICE, leaving his spouse and my two granddaughters. I used to be left supporting our household on my one supply of revenue, folding garments at a laundromat in my neighborhood. Then the pandemic started sweeping by our neighborhood and all of us fell sick with COVID. I used to be laid off from my job. We misplaced our solely hope at a gentle supply of revenue. 

Whereas many individuals confronted the identical form of losses, as a result of we’re undocumented, we didn’t have entry to stimulus checks, unemployment insurance coverage, or any of the opposite reduction that the federal government supplied in the course of the pandemic. 

As an alternative, we needed to depend on the charity of others to get by. A buddy would carry us groceries so my granddaughters would have sufficient meals to eat. When he couldn’t come by, I traveled for hours at a time to select up donations at group facilities and meals banks. 

Hardest of all, we couldn’t afford our lease and needed to transfer to a buddy’s house within the Bronx. For a yr, we shared a two-bedroom area between six adults and 5 kids. With so many individuals in such a small area, getting any time to relaxation was just about inconceivable. It was particularly laborious for my granddaughter, who suffers from bronchial asthma and located it laborious to even breathe within the outdated and moldy house. 

In June of this yr, we lastly moved to our personal place, a basement house in Recent Meadows. Simply once I thought our fortunes had shifted, Hurricane Ida hit. In a single day, we misplaced all of our possessions and our furnishings was destroyed. We even needed to take refuge in our automobile whereas the water receded. 

It felt just like the final straw. For a yr, we’d carried out all the things we may to maintain transferring, and at each flip, we had been pulled again down. It felt like our bicycle had lastly fallen over. 

Then, this fall, I used to be watching TV late one evening, and I noticed an advert for one thing known as the Excluded Workers Fund. It promised to supply monetary help for individuals who weren’t eligible for pandemic support. I’d heard concerning the fund however had no concept it may apply to me. 

Inside days, with a buddy’s assist, I crammed out an software. And in late October, I realized that I had been authorized for the very best tier of funding – $15,600. It felt like nothing lower than a blessing from heaven. Lastly, after so many falls, we’d been given an indication telling us that our household may get again up – that we may begin pedaling as soon as once more. 

The funding has reworked all of our lives. We’ve been in a position to lastly get sufficient meals to eat and be sure that my granddaughters don’t get up hungry. We will get new furnishings once more after most of it grew moldy in the course of the floods. My household’s particularly excited for a brand new eating room desk in order that we will all eat collectively once more. We will substitute the cleansing and portray instruments that my son must work and that the floods took away. 

Most significantly, we will get again our peace of thoughts and the safety to look after our household. 

There are lots of of 1000’s of individuals throughout Queens and New York who’ve tales like mine. Lots of of 1000’s of individuals in our state had been excluded from any help in the course of the pandemic and have been excluded from our nation’s security internet for many years. 

The fund has been so widespread that simply 9 weeks after it opened in August, the total $2.1 billion that the state handed has already run out. However there are nonetheless many extra individuals round our state who could possibly be eligible for the funding and who didn’t but have an opportunity to use. 

That’s why it’s so important that Governor Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers move further funding for the Excluded Workers Fund within the subsequent finances session and make it potential for all working individuals on this state to have entry to the reduction that they desperately want. 

The excluded workers fund gave us again our hope for a greater future. We must always be sure that everyone in New York who’s eligible has the prospect to do the identical. 

Jessica Jimenez is a resident of Corona, Queens, and a member of Make the Highway New York

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