Like so many others, Emilia Martinez, a 37-year-old Highbridge resident, had her life upended by the pandemic. “I was working at a multi-service center in The Bronx,” she says. “They helped people with taxes, provided translation services and helped people wire money to family in the Dominican Republic and other places. Because of the pandemic, the place closed for a few months and I was out of job. I was scared; I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

Emilia is originally from the Dominican Republic where she earned a bachelor’s degree and worked as an accountant. She has no family in New York and speaks very little English.

After her job evaporated, she quickly exhausted her very modest state unemployment benefits and fell behind on her rent. Soon, she owed her landlord $3,400 and was panicked about finding new work.

A friend suggested she reach out to The Bridge Fund: “I had called several places for help,” Emilia recalled, “but The Bridge Fund was the only one that called back and helped me.” They immediately went into action and helped her apply for federal unemployment benefits of $300 a week and got her a grant for food and utilities to tide her over until those benefits were in hand. The Bridge Fund also helped with her back rent: Emilia contributed $914, and they covered the rest.

Recognizing Emilia’s determination to improve her situation, The Bridge Fund suggested she apply to a Home Health Aid certification program, which she has completed. She now cares for two seniors and takes home $1,600 a month. Knowing her future employment prospects would be much better if she spoke English, her caseworker referred her to an English as a Second Language course.

All of this is part of The Bridge Fund of New York City’s Income Growth Initiative; devised to help clients improve their financial futures. By providing expert referrals to affordable vocational trainings, career advisement, money management workshops, plus other services, the program helps people like Emilia move both forward and upward. Recently, Emilia served as a Bilingual Peer Consultant for The Bridge Fund, helping conduct a Zoom workshop in Spanish for others interested in job training programs.

Emilia’s life has dramatically changed. She now is hoping to become a medical assistant, is out of debt, and perhaps most importantly, avoided losing her housing. Emilia put it best when she said, “The Bridge Fund was a Godsend.” Amen.

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