J-HELP: A Boost in Tough Times (November 5, 2009)

In the wake of our country’s economic downturn, Federation agencies are seeing record requests for help while at the same time facing cuts and delayed payments in government and private funding. As illustrated by the statistics below, families who never before had trouble paying their bills are turning to our partner agencies for assistance. Older adults on fixed incomes are unable to pay for life-preserving medications. The demand for food assistance from Jews of all ages is spiraling beyond the current capacity of our meal programs and food pantries. 

  • During this past fiscal year, 3,000 unduplicated families received over $1.6 million dollars in emergency financial assistance from our agencies to pay for food, housing, healthcare and other critical expenses.  Struggling families often require financial assistance services more than one time— for example, in September, 742 families were served, which represents a 100% increase at CJE SeniorLife, a 37% increase at EZRA and a 38% increase at JCFS over the same period last year.
  • 2,016 families received free food from EZRA and The ARK food pantries, the JUF Uptown Café, and the CJE SeniorLife home-delivered meals program in September.  
    345 people received free health care from The ARK Clinic in September, a 14% increase compared to the same month last year.
  • During this past fiscal year, our agencies provided 1,655 unemployed individuals with critical employment assistance services and support, and helped 1,194 unemployed or underemployed people secure paid jobs. To meet increased demands, JVS has expanded group employment assistance programs and participation in these programs increased 180% in September, when compared to the same period last year. 
  • 556 individuals received financial counseling, money management, or consumer assistance from our agencies in September.  This represents a 52% increase in the number of clients served at JCFS and a 66% increase at JVS when compared to the same period last year.
  • To date, JCC has provided 17% more families requesting scholarships for early childhood programming with assistance, and has increased per capita scholarship assistance by 16%, when compared to the previous year.

J-HELP: A Boost in Tough Times is an 18-month initiative launched by JUF/Federation to help address the emerging needs of the newly-unemployed, financially stressed “middle class” individuals and families and, as always, the chronically disadvantaged. While JUF/Federation allocates more than $22 million annually to provide for the basic needs of the most vulnerable members in the community, the J-HELP initiative is enabling us to respond in some targeted ways to the significant increase in demand. 

To date, J-HELP has raised more than $3.5 million in supplemental funds to help in three key areas: emergency relief, expanded access to social services, and support to help families maintain access to Jewish life.  Dollars have come from donors, private foundations, reallocation of JF resources and federal stimulus funds.

Emergency Relief

J-HELP has supplemented agency emergency financial assistance programs to help meet the basic needs of community members in crisis.  To date, $465,360 in food, financial and pharmacy assistance has been provided to Federation agencies through J-HELP.  An additional $169,500 has been provided to local congregations for distribution through rabbinic discretionary funds, and $35,000 was provided to Maot Chitim to help struggling Jewish families celebrate the holidays with dignity this year.

Expanded Access to Social Services

In response to a growing need for employment assistance, J-HELP expanded the Jewish Employment Network program and is supporting an innovative online job placement network called ParnossahWorks, which is enabling JVS to provide more members of the Jewish community with job counseling and placement services. With funding through the federal stimulus package, J-HELP support is also funding a program to help low-income older adults re-enter the workforce and low-income teens enter the workforce to help support their families. Targeted J-HELP grants have been awarded to the ARK, EZRA and the Chicago Chesed Fund as a means of strengthening agency capacity to serve, and a recent J-HELP allocation has established the JUF Community Legal Services program, which protects and expands pro bono legal services for low income clients in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

J-HELP is providing $510,000 over the next two years to launch Project Connect, which draws on the expertise of a network of agencies to meet the varying needs of individuals in crisis. Program components include a new financial case management model, a new credit building program, targeted outreach around foreclosure prevention, and strategic expansion of other key services such as benefits assistance, job placement, financial counseling, community outreach and education, and linkage with core services. In November, Project Connect launched an on-line resource directory and searchable database to help community members in need access benefits, services, and relevant educational workshops available in the community. 

Access to Jewish Life

J-HELP increased scholarship dollars for an additional 200 children to attend Jewish day camp this past summer. This offered respite, community, and a sense of normalcy for kids whose families were struggling as a result of the economic crisis.

Finally, as families’ financial circumstances change the local Jewish Day Schools are experiencing increased scholarship requests, while their ability to meet fundraising goals and secure loans has been diminished.  To date, through a generous day school challenge grant, J-HELP has provided $243,800 in supplemental support to help address the difficult financial situation the 16 day schools and their more than 4,000 students now face. 

Through J-HELP, the JUF/Federation will continue to provide financial resources, oversee community planning efforts, and mobilize human resources to assist those who are struggling. We won’t be able to fix every problem born of this economy, nor address every individual need. But with your support, through J-HELP and the continued work of our agencies, JUF/Federation will strengthen the community’s safety net to ensure that people maintain stability and do not fall through the cracks.

Posted: 10/2/2009 11:57:22 AM

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