Roaring Fork Valley non-profit MANAUS is giving financial support to immigrant families to help them make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Friday, the organization had ensured $1,000 to 377 immigrant families in the Valley.
MANAUS executive director Sydney Schalit said the money is distributed through their program LaMedichi. It's an app that provides a safe place to save money for those who may be unbanked or nervous to open a bank account due to their legal status.
Schalit spoke with Aspen Public Radio about why local immigrant families may need extra help during this time of COVID-19.
Why is MANAUS giving $1,000 to local immigrant families in the Valley?
We specifically work with people who are underserved and needs are not met by local government, county government, state government or the federal government for any number of reasons.
The population that we support and service, in particular, they were the first to lose their jobs. They were the first to feel the immediate impact of this virus. Not to mention that they are also highly susceptible to the virus.
So we have had a lot of stories come through about family members being super sick and families trying to decide, "Do we pay rent, or do we pay the hospital bill or do we pay for transportation to the hospital?" So [through] MANAUS, we’re able to meet the needs of thousands of our immigrant neighbors without the pressure of, "Is the information going to get handed over to someone who is going to take half of my family away?" They trust us.
Our immigrant neighbors deserve every penny that we give them and more. If we could give them more, we would. We are going to keep trying really hard to get more money from people who also believe they deserve the support that we are able to give them.
Where is the extra money coming from?
So we have some very generous donors that have been fabulous. We have worked with a couple of them and right now, we have just received a check from one of them for $100,000, so that’s 100 people that we’re going to be able to serve.
We are working with other nonprofits and foundations in the Valley to refund the funds, and we are really excited about our prospects and we’re hoping everyone can move as quickly as we see the need coming in.
But for the first time in [MANAUS] history, we are asking the public to consider donating. Every penny gets given directly to your immigrant neighbors.
What are some things that our immigrant neighbors in the Valley are dealing with on top of financial stress?
The most consistent cry for help that we’re hearing right now is that a lot of our immigrant neighbors are living in multi-family homes and their landlords are harassing them, for lack of a kinder term. They are doing rent-hikes and we are seeing a lot of people get really scared that they are not going to be able to get back into their house if they go to the grocery store.
We’re also hearing a lot of people concerned about access to the internet in order for their children to have access to school. All schools have gone online, which is amazing to see how nimble our schools can be. I know a lot of the school leaders are working really hard to make sure that everybody has access and everybody has what they need. I think there are still people that have fallen through the cracks. That’s been a need where people are like, "Our internet provider’s knocking down our door to try and get us to pay." Maybe it's because they were late in their March (payment) and now they are going to be late in April.
We’re working hard to make sure that regardless of why they need money, we know they need the money because they all lost their jobs. We’re able to help them gain access to at least the emergency fund.