Part 2 – Population focus: Supporting the Immigrant Community During COVID-19

JFS CEO Lino Covarrubias

An Interview with Lino Covarrubias on the Impact of COVID-19, conducted by Deb Merkin, JFS Board Member and CEO/Founder of GiftCard Partners:

The Immigrant community has been hit hard by COVID-19 due to the lack of a safety net. Undocumented immigrants are especially vulnerable during these times. How does JFS support these groups during the pandemic? 

“Many undocumented immigrants in our community are running single-parent homes, often times working paycheck to paycheck. Why are they single-parent households? It might be that the husband was deported, or had to go back to their home country to visit family and never returned

Immigrants do not like to ask for help. For many years, JFS worked through the Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Framingham, originally helping with after school programming and establishing trust with the children first. Our entry point has always been through the schools. Today, JFS has expanded its impact by being part of the Framingham Public Schools’ response to COVID-19, pivoting to supplement what the schools are doing and expanding the work with the addition of volunteers.

Through this time, JFS has continued to support this community by suppling backpacks full of school supplies and ensuring food security through our collaborative work with Daniel’s Table. JFS also addresses seasonal clothing needs of elementary school-aged children in the Metrowest community through our Children’s Clothing Closet, which focuses specifically on the most economically challenged schools in Framingham.

Working with the Superintendent’s Task Force, JFS has helped hundreds of families by distributing over 70,000 meals and 90,000 units of toiletries and female hygiene products. Additionally, JFS assisted over 60 single parents or guardians specifically with rental assistance during this crisis. Many of these single parents lost their income when the pandemic hit and as a result could not pay their rent and were at risk for eviction. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for funding from either the Federal or State government. Having stable housing is the most important social determinant of health and it is critical for us to provide basic needs such as food and toiletries and do what we can to make sure they stay in their homes.

With generous support from funders, over $70,000 has been provided to assist these families in crisis and ensure they would not become homeless. We collaborate with local organizations, such as the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) to arrange for services, but there may be a 6-8 week wait before the family may be placed in a shelter in another community.  JFS tries everything they can to keep the family in their home. As soon as the family starts working, they call and we take them off the list.”

What about the children impacted?

“Education-wise, this really is a lost year for children in many communities. As parents go to work, kids are often left alone to do remote learning, which is incredibly difficult. JFS continues to address seasonal clothing needs through the JFS Children’s Clothing Closet. JFS also provides families access to food, personal care, and female hygiene products through community distributions in conjunction with our partners at Daniel’s Table, Hope and Comfort, and Dignity Matters.  Additionally, JFS has distributed thousands of books and school supplies to support remote learning, and in collaboration with the school system, JFS is matching volunteers with young students to provide virtual tutoring and mentoring.

JFS’ mission is to address inequities in our community. If a family can pay for a tutor, then the educational impact of the pandemic on their children will be less significant. For these immigrant families who can barely put food on the table, JFS is working to ensure their children have access to the academic support necessary to keep their progress on an upward trajectory.”