“We would’ve been homeless, and my children would’ve been taken from me if it weren’t for you guys,” Rachel* said of being a Basic Needs Fund grant recipient. After arriving in the United States in January 2020, Rachel enrolled in the Institute’s English for Work program and applied for an employment authorization document (EAD).
During these early weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, government offices began shutting down, delaying Rachel’s EAD approval and her job prospects. Without a prior work history in the U.S., she was ineligible for unemployment assistance and her recent arrival status also made Rachel ineligible for the federal stimulus payment. With children to support and rent payments due, Rachel’s family was on the precipice of their own crisis.
Because of generous donations to the Institute’s Basic Needs Fund, Rachel’s case manager was able to apply for emergency housing grants on her behalf, which allowed Rachel to make July and August rent payments while she continued to search for employment and wait for the EAD. Due to Rachel’s circumstances, which are shared by many New Americans, this support from the Institute was one of her only options to maintain housing stability during the pandemic.
Unlike immigrants who emigrate with specialized work or education visas, many Institute clients arrive in Minnesota after spending years in refugee camps, asylee detention or other temporary situations. Forcibly displaced residents typically have no savings upon resettlement and, aside from social service programs, almost all lack resources or supportive networks to stabilize their families.
Between April and December 2020, the Basic Needs Fund made a total of 143 grants to support 77 clients and 216 total residents. The average client grant for housing assistance was $930.
The fund was critical for Institute’s clients during the pandemic as many had experienced a job disruption and were not eligible for unemployment insurance payments to maintain their housing and basic needs. Of the grantees, 83% were ineligible for unemployment benefits, while 64% were also ineligible for the federal stimulus payments. Unaccompanied children and foreign-born human trafficking survivors – 34% of the grantees – were able to secure stability when no other public resource was available to them.
In addition to the Basic Needs Fund, the Institute recognized that our clients faced significant technology access issues at a time when classes and support services were moving online. To ensure no one was left behind while our physical doors were closed, we established the Technology Access Fund to help New American families secure computer and internet access. Generous contributions to this fund have allowed clients to stay connected to classes, programs and their greater community.
Deric, a Dietary Aide Training student who received a computer through the fund, shared:
“I wouldn’t have been able to take this class without the computer I received. No one has ever given me a computer to study. Giving me a computer has motivated me to attend the classes and has made me more determined to do well in the class and be successful.”
Deric adds, “Until I am able to get my work permit, I will continue to learn in any online class I can.” He hopes to find work as a dietary aide and also to enroll in our Nursing Assistant Training program in the future.
“I want to thank the Institute for giving me this computer and all the equipment I need to succeed,” he said. “Just with a helping hand, we are able to study and learn and achieve.”
Our heartfelt thanks goes out to our community of supporters who have made these critical resources available to those who need it most. Thank you for standing by New Americans and all of your neighbors during these trying times.