Some people who were suddenly out of jobs during the pandemic faced a crisis when they couldn’t afford to pay their rent or monthly mortgage. St. Vincent de Paul-Prince of Peace Conference in Flowery Branch worked to meet that need.
St. Vincent de Paul routinely provides services and financial assistance to low-income families struggling to meet basic needs and maintain financial stability. With the onset of the coronavirus, the nonprofit organization anticipated an increase in requests for help.
As the economic downturn resulted in high unemployment, many already hard-hit families found themselves unable to pay for housing or utilities, according to St. Vincent-Prince of Peace Conference Co-Presidents Beverly Kazienko and Ron Lowe, who targeted their Jackson EMC Foundation grant funds to help families pay rent and mortgage.
“We got that money on April 1 and by April 10, it was gone,” says Kazienko, noting that 40 individuals were helped by the grant. “In April, so many asked for help, but in May it slowed down, and we think that’s because people were starting to get stimulus checks and unemployment. The biggest challenge was that people lost their job immediately. One day they went to work; the next day, they were let go.”
Most families used the funding they received from the Foundation to pay rent, according to Kazienko, who says rent averages $1,000 a month in their area. Lowe applauded independent landlords who held off on evictions during the crisis in order to give renters the option to catch up on payments in coming months.
“We knew some of these folks were in bad enough financial shape that if they got three months behind, the odds were against them ever catching up,” says Lowe. “These are people living on the financial edge. I’ve heard someone say, ‘It’s not paycheck to paycheck. It’s minimum payment to minimum payment.’”
Not all landlords were able to offer postponed payments because some depend on the monthly rent to pay their own mortgage, according to Lowe, who says the St. Vincent de Paul Society routinely works with landlords and banks to prevent evictions and foreclosures.
“We anticipate this need will increase dramatically as the pandemic progresses,” he adds.
Their organization already had put in this year’s request for a grant when they got an email from Lori Worley advising that the Jackson EMC Foundation was offering emergency grants.
“We jumped on it because we knew we’d need it,” Kazienko recalls. “In the beginning when all this got crazy and they started shutting down everything, our donations went down. We were elated when we heard from Jackson EMC.”