In light of the growing crisis, UJA was approached by our longtime partner, the Hebrew Free Loan Society (HFLS), to provide the capital to support a loan program that will provide interest-free “paycheck” loans to federal employees who live in New York City or Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties and whose annual salary is $40,000 or less.
I’m very pleased to report that our Board of Directors unanimously voted during an emergency call last week to allocate $5 million from our endowment to support HFLS’ efforts. The program, now up and running, will be an invaluable source of support for so many, Jews and non-Jews alike.
Many of the men and women affected by the shutdown are right in our own backyard. Indeed, according to the mayor’s office, 18,000 federal employees live in New York City alone. For those who may be surviving paycheck-to-paycheck, more than a month without pay can quickly become destabilizing, if not disastrous. I heard from a colleague with a family member who’s a veteran, now working without pay for Homeland Security. With a young baby at home, he and his wife simply don’t have savings to draw on.
Food insecurity is a growing concern. Last week, our partner, Met Council — responding to a request from the Staten Island Borough President — delivered 600 food packages to Coast Guard families. Met Council is also reporting a notable uptick in people calling, desperately worried about federally funded services.
So while the government has pledged that federal employees will eventually receive the back pay owed to them, right now the deep struggle to pay for food, mortgages/rent, childcare, medicine, and other necessities is frighteningly real.
These are especially challenging times, and the need for all of us to come together and help each other has never been greater. In the always inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose life and legacy we just celebrated, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
This week, thanks to the vital support of all of you, we’re glad to be doing our part.