Update on BIIN CARES Fund
In early February 2021, we announced the Board’s decision to extend the BIIN CARES Fund, in order to provide financial assistance to immigrant-led households still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. Generous donors immediately responded, providing close to $3000 in a matter of days. Delighted with this response, the BIIN CARES team began processing payments for utilities and rent, on behalf of qualified applicants on the waiting list.
Then starting February 15, the epic winter storm that brought snow, ice and a record streak of unusually cold temperatures across the state and region hit us. Many things came to a standstill, as people coped with power outages, loss of heat, water, internet connectivity, burst pipes, property damage, injuries, illness and most tragically, preventable loss of life. Much like the pandemic, this was a storm that revealed in stark detail the depth of existing economic disparities. As the cold receded and utilities came back on line, many were able to pick up where they had left off. But some of our neighbors, already living on the edge due to the pandemic, were left in even more dire straits by the multiple impacts of the winter storm.
Clotilde Pichon, a long-time BIIN volunteer who serves on both the BIIN CARES and Information/Referral/Assistance (IRA) teams, observed, “With last week’s winter storm, a lot of immigrants were unable to work and will have much higher utility bills — all this in addition to their struggles due to the pandemic. We’ve already received more calls than usual.” In consultation with BIIN board leaders, the decision was made to expand eligibility for the BIIN CARES Fund to immigrant-led households who do not receive federal assistance but whose income or ability to work were impacted by the winter storm and/or by the pandemic.
Nonetheless, the basic terms of our appeal to BIIN supporters far and wide remain true:
Despite the hope inspired by a new year and the vaccination campaign, the pandemic continues to have a terrible impact on people’s health, income and well-being. This is especially true for people who work and live in precarious circumstances, including many of our immigrant neighbors.
Although they pay taxes, they have not been eligible to receive federal stimulus checks — simply because of the way those laws have been designed. Entire households have been excluded from benefits even when some members are permanent residents or American citizens. Nonetheless, these neighbors contribute significantly to the local and national economy: as employees, customers, tenants and taxpayers. With a little bit of help, they and their children can remain in their homes and keep the lights on while they work to pay off their bills and regain more stable footing. For all of these reasons, they are also good candidates for the kind of emergency assistance that the BIIN CARES Fund is designed to provide.
Many individuals and households across the country have now received two federal stimulus checks, and legislation regarding another round of economic relief is currently under consideration in Congress. If you and your family are blessed with more stable circumstances and are able to share part or all of any stimulus payments you may have already or will soon receive, we ask you to consider donating what you can to the BIIN CARES Fund.
Although more clement temperatures have returned to central Texas, many immigrant-led families continue to struggle to make ends meet. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Please join us in showing that you too CARE about our most vulnerable neighbors.