Sunday evening a coalition of service organizations and community advocates released a joint statement, asking City and County leaders in El Paso to provide relief in the form of direct payments to vulnerable local residents and small business owners, who are unable to access federal stimulus funds.
The request comes as the City and County are evaluating how to allocate federal disaster relief funding intended to sustain communities impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
“The Paso del Norte Community Foundation is deeply committed to the health and wellbeing of the residents of our region. This is a moment when our community can stand together, united to meet the great challenges ahead of us with compassion and generosity,” Tracy Yellen, CEO, Paso del Norte Health Foundation and Paso del Norte Community Foundation said.
“We stand ready to collaborate with the City and County to ensure that struggling families and individuals receive the critical support they need now.”
The coalition, which includes the El Paso Community Foundation, the Paso del Norte Community Foundation, Texas State Senator José Rodriguez, Bishop Mark J. Seitz, local social service agencies and immigrant rights organizations, has come together to collaborate on innovative and effective ways to provide critical emergency support.
“With God’s help, we will get to the other side of this current crisis together. The challenges ahead of us will demand new levels of solidarity and leadership from all of us, including our elected officials, who I know are up to the challenge,” Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of El Paso said. “They have my full support and collaboration in establishing a bold new fund to help those most impacted by the current crisis.”
In order to channel aid to the most vulnerable in our community now, the coalition is asking that federal dollars available to local governments through the CARES Act be leveraged together with philanthropic and private contributions through an innovative emergency relief fund.
Dylan Corbett, Executive Director, Hope Border Institute talked of the strength through diversity that the region has.
“Our borderland community is a vibrant, diverse and interconnected community of families and individuals who have lived in the region and contributed economically for months, years or generations. From an economic and moral perspective, it is important to ensure equitable access to relief to all El Paso residents and tax-paying families. This is an unprecedented opportunity for all of us — government, philanthropy and community organizations — to come to the table now to rebuild our community even stronger.”
While many El Pasoans have benefited from relief through the CARES Act, many individuals and families were left behind, either because they do not earn enough money to file taxes, because they were born abroad or because they are US citizens with family ties to foreign-born residents.
According to the group, tens of thousands of these El Paso families and individuals have been excluded from critical support like paid leave, unemployment insurance benefits, individual and family stimulus checks and small business support, even as the economic crisis leaves many without enough resources to sustain themselves.
“Thousands of people in our community are suffering the effects of this pandemic, said Eric Pearson, CEO of the El Paso Community Foundation. “This is a time for all of us to come together and work out the best way to care for our neighbors, businesses, and others. No one can do this alone.”
“This unprecedented challenge is also an unprecedented opportunity. Regardless of where we were born or what we do, right now El Pasoans are standing together with love and looking out for one another,” Laura Ponce, Executive Director, Project BRAVO adds. “Our community’s social service organizations stand ready to work in partnership with our strong community coalition and our City and County to make a real difference in the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors.”
Several communities in Texas have established similar funds in the millions of dollars, including Harris County, Hidalgo County and the City of Austin.
“Emergency support will provide an essential bridge for struggling families and ensure a broad-based economic recovery once this crisis passes,” officials added.
“The El Paso community has great needs and great heart. Together, we can help fill gaps that threaten to leave families without food, shelter, and other necessities. Everyone in our community is essential. I look forward to continuing to work with local elected and nonprofit leaders to identify and serve those in need,” State Senator José Rodriguez stated.
Supporting organizations and individuals include: Abara Borderland Connections; Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico; Ciudad Nueva Community Outreach; Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services; Diocesan Peace and Justice Ministry; El Paso Community Foundation; El Paso Health Sciences and Policy Research Group; Hope Border Institute; Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center; Mexicanos en el Exilio; Paso del Norte Community Foundation; Project BRAVO; Texas State Senator José Rodriguez; Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of El Paso.