By Jessica Easthope
Unemployment in the United States is the highest it’s been since the Great Depression. Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs. In New York City, those who are undocumented are unable to collect unemployment benefits and are fighting to survive.
“It’s been hard for her especially with money because the owners want their money now and they don’t want to wait and sometimes food runs out and she doesn’t know what to give us,” Marlene Sanchez, translating for her mother Viridiana, told Currents News.
Viridiana and her husband have been unemployed for months. They’re struggling to pay rent and provide for their three children.
“I have two younger siblings as well,” Marlene said. “The smallest one is three, and he doesn’t understand when there’s no food and there’s nothing left to give him.”
The family, who attends Basilica of Regina Pacis in Bensonhurst, doesn’t know where to turn.
“We were planning to move in two weeks to move to Minnesota, but we need to have a certain amount of money to go. So, now we’ve moved it to September. Over there they’re still giving out jobs, and and the rent is less over there. They would be doing farm work,” Marlene said.
More than one million New Yorkers have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began. Though many qualify, the Department of Labor has been flooded with applications and some have been denied. That’s where the New York State Bar Association is stepping in.
“In these dark and desperate times the New York State Bar Association is fulfilling one of the highest obligations of the legal profession which is provide legal assistance for those people who cannot afford an attorney,” said Hank Greenberg, the President of the New York State Bar Association.
Greenberg says someone whose claim has been denied has a better chance of getting it appealed if they’re represented by an attorney. He says the more than 1,500 lawyers who have completed online training to help people for free are offering much more than legal advice.
“For many people who are suffering the opportunity to speak to a thoughtful and sensitive person to willing to listen to their concerns and help them through a difficult and vitally important legal issue is very valuable,” Greenberg explained.
People like Viridiana and her family have been finding that comfort in the Catholic-run food pantries and soup kitchens in her community and their faith.
“From this experience her faith has been growing stronger,” Marlene said of her mother. “We didn’t pray together as a family and now we’ve been praying every day.”