AUSTIN, Texas - A blessing is what Sara Ramirez with Catholic Charities of Central Texas is called the $1.6 million the city of Austin allocated to helping those directly impacted by COVID-19.
The city council approved to move $15 million from the city’s emergency fund to a new relief Rise Fund to aid families financially impacted. Austin Public Health was then directed to choose nonprofits and other organizations able to assist people in need.
CCTX opened up the phone lines for Rise Fund program applications Monday and within the first two hours received more than 400 calls requesting aid. Ramirez said an individual could get up to $1200 or a family of five could get about $5,000 to help pay for rent, utilities, mortgage, and car payments.
“Right now families who were living paycheck to paycheck, are working-class citizens but when you lose that money there is no stability with your family,” Ramirez said. “We know as a society we need to meet people’s basic needs first and that’s food, clothing, and shelter.”
People who qualify for assistance are those who did not benefit from the CARES Act, immigrants and those below the national poverty line. Stimulus checks hit people’s bank accounts about two weeks ago.
However, not everyone has received a check. Couple with mixed-status relationships are learning if one spouse is undocumented or has an individual taxpayer identification number, the whole family may not receive federal assistance. Immigration lawyer and partner of Walker Gates & Vela law firm Chito Vela said the move is discriminatory and hurts families.
“The biggest issue with the stimulus payments is that there are U.S citizens and U.S citizen children that are being denied their stimulus payments because they are married to someone who is undocumented,” Vela said.
Governor Greg Abbott held a press briefing Monday afternoon announcing next steps in opening the state to open up the Texas economy. Abbott reported the Texas Workforce Commission has filed 1.9 million unemployment claims and 1.6 million have yet to be processed. The Texas economy and the nation’s economy has felt the financial burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CCTX’s goal is to help people who are in need at this time before finances take a turn for the worse. The nonprofit aims to assist about 1,200 families with the Rise Fund.
“It’s going to take an extremely long time for families that were just getting by, to be able to be a part of the solution and keep them for spiraling out of control and to keep them from getting deeper into poverty,” Ramirez said.
For more information on how to apply to CCTX’s Rise Fund program head to the CCTX website.
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