In mid-March, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the PODER team to adapt and seek new ways to combat rising challenges. The pandemic has led to veritable economic and health challenges within the PODER community. Due to immigration status, many community members are unable to obtain much-needed government benefits and were ineligible for payments provided by the CARES Act. During the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, PODER has remained committed to serving our community in new and innovative ways.
Through the aforementioned partnership with BPNC, our PODER team has distributed $300 cash payments to almost 50 community members experiencing financial hardship. These cash payments prioritized individuals who were ineligible to receive support through the CARES Act.
Jose Acebedo, a former PODER student and current Office Manager, was responsible for the program’s oversight. Jose identified a great need for the cash assistance program among PODER students and the greater community. Among the recipients of the financial assistance program were individuals that were recently unemployed, battling COVID-19, and coping with the loss of family members.
Iveth Sambonino and Carol Salazar are PODER’s receptionists and, under normal circumstances, the first ones to greet students when they walk through the doors. Both have been instrumental in administering the cash assistance program and ensuring that people received the assistance they needed.
To determine if applicants are eligible for the payments, Carol and Iveth have been tasked with asking difficult questions about immigration status, employment and health problems. Their empathy has helped students feel comfortable discussing their challenges, and as a result, the program sends a message to the community that PODER is listening and responding. PODER cares.