Part 3 – Population Focus: Supporting the Jewish community During COVID-19

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

“You mentioned that one of JFS’ core mission areas is to support Jewish community members who need help. In what ways has JFS responded to their needs?”

JFS CEO Lino Covarrubias

“JFS receives funding from Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) to address poverty in the Jewish community as part of their Anti-Poverty Initiative.” A research study conducted by CJP discovered there are crisis situations that can hit families that have never had to ask for help before, such as job loss, the loss of a caregiver/spouse/partner, or health issues.

Understanding where to get help and navigating how to apply for public benefits in a time of crisis can be overwhelming. JFS helps demystify these systems and provides emergency financial assistance, career counseling, job search assistance, child mentor support, and long-term support to those who are struggling. COVID-19 has served to magnify this need.

An example of one situation we have seen is a circumstance where both wage earners lost their jobs and were unable to find work within their six-month safety net (savings). Other stories we hear involve illness. These families and individuals come to us having never faced such dire circumstances before and did not know how to get help.

Imagine a Jewish middle-class family in Metrowest, a two-income family with two children. This family has never gone hungry and never missed a mortgage payment. They are proud of their six months worth of savings. Then the pandemic hits. The father, a commercial real estate salesperson in Metrowest, suddenly sees his income dwindle because no companies are looking for commercial space. As schools transition to remote-learning, the mother, a classroom aid is dismissed from her job for the rest of the year.

This family burns through their savings as the pandemic drags on, and because they have never been in this situation before, this family was too embarrassed to ask for help and really did not know where to turn. During this time, the family’s resources dwindle and they are unable to pay their mortgage and buying food for the family is becoming a problem. They talk to their Rabbi who recommends that they call JFS. 

In a case like this, JFS social workers are able to respond and coordinate resources as part of the CJP Anti-Poverty initiative. First, they address immediate needs, such as connecting them with Daniels Table to help provide food until the family can get back on their feet. Then they assist with budgeting to make the most of available resources and may negotiate with service providers on behalf of the client, such as working with their bank to arrange a realistic loan repayment plan for the familys mortgage. JFS social workers also assess employment needs and may connect the clients with Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) to receive assistance through the Ready for Success Program.

In partnership with CJP, JFS is ensuring that no one in the Jewish community falls through the cracks. The pandemic has taken a crushing toll on many in our community, and as the devastation continues to impact health, jobs, childcare and finances, JFS will be here support individuals and families in the Jewish community until they are able to get back on their feet.”

Coming soon: Part 4 – Supporting Older Adults in Our Community during COVID-19