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August 2014 Newsletter

Keep Away from the Edge

The Bridge Fund helped save Tom and Janet's home in Brooklyn. Read their story below.

Trust grants prevent hard-working New Yorkers from falling into crisis

Serving food, parking cars, cleaning homes, caring for the elderly—low-wage jobs abound in New York. But they barely pay the bills. Even with two jobs, or two earners in a household, millions of New Yorkers are one injury or layoff away from bankruptcy, hunger, or homelessness. The Trust makes a priority of giving our neighbors a safety net during hard times, and four new grants are part of this effort:

Since 2009, grants totaling $5 million to The Bridge Fund of New York City have helped thousands of working poor New Yorkers stay in their homes during crises by providing no-interest loans for back rent and budget counseling. A new $600,000 grant will help families in 20 neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Supporting a family during tough times can not only avoid the trauma of eviction and homelessness, but can save the City far more. Housing a family in a shelter for a year costs more than $38,000.

East New York has the most homeless shelters of any neighborhood in Brooklyn and most residents pay more than 40 percent of their income in rent. Partnership for the Homeless will use $75,000 from The Trust to connect families with legal help to fight foreclosure and evictions in East New York.

A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center helped draft and pass paid sick leave and pregnancy accommodation laws. Our $75,000 funds workshops, fact sheets, social media outreach, and a hotline to make sure workers across the City understand their rights.

Earned-income tax credits can be a life-saver for low-income New Yorkers, but workers paid in cash have trouble getting these credits because of difficulty documenting their incomes. As a result, the State audited 80 percent of self-employed cash-earners. With a $90,000 grant in 2012, the Financial Clinic, a group helping the working poor become financially stable and plan for the future, launched a campaign to simplify this system and get tax credits for cash-earners. Another $90,000 from The Trust will continue this work.

Our Story

Car Accident. Layoff. Cancer. Possible Eviction . . . Bedbugs, too?

Tom and Janet, Brooklyn

Tom: Our troubles began when my company transfer red us from New Hampshire to New York City. On our dime.

We found an affordable apartment in Brooklyn. But then I broke my neck and jaw in a car accident. The injuries made it impossible to travel for work. Next, I was laid off when the company merged with another.

Janet: While Tom launched a job search, I was diagnosed with leukemia. Tom’s Social Security benefits were delayed because not all of his former employers had accurately reported his earnings. Although I did receive disability benefits, thanks to my job, that wasn’t enough to pay for chemotherapy. Even as we borrowed from friends and family, our expenses mounted.

Our real-life nightmare continued: Our building became infested with bedbugs. I’ll never forget having to borrow to pay the exterminator, then huddling in Prospect Park for hours while he sprayed our building. Actually, the bugs may have been a blessing—if that’s what you want to call it. The infestation drove our building’s tenants to go to the Legal Aid Society, which won a rent rebate from the land lord.

Tom: We were way behind on rent. Legal Aid referred Janet and me to The Bridge Fund, so we wouldn’t get evicted. By that time, I’d gotten a full-time job and Social Security had kicked in, but we still needed help paying some of the back rent. The interest-free loan of $2,500 from The Bridge Fund saved our home. My new job allows me to work from our apartment, where I can care for Janet as she continues to fight cancer.

(Tom and Janet, who asked that their last names not be used, are back on track and paying off the loan from The Bridge Fund of New York City, which is supported by The Trust.)

Read the next article in the August newsletter>>

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