PHOTO: Executives from organizations whose frontline and furloughed workers will receive support greeted the news gratefully:
• "Thank you for this wonderful gesture for people who really need it." ~ Fred Rothstein of Neveh Shalom on behalf of Foundation School
• "This is incredibly generous. Thank you." ~ MJCC and PJA's Steve Albert
• "This gives me chills. Thank you and God bless." ~ CSP's Kim Fuson
• "It is very special." ~ Devora Wilhelm from MJDS
BY DEBORAH MOON
Nearly 700 frontline or furloughed workers in Portland’s Jewish communal organizations will each receive coronavirus assistance of up to $250 from the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland for a total of $118,000.
The funds will provide essential assistance for people who provide support for the most vulnerable members of our community – the elderly, Holocaust survivors and children – and for 150 Jewish community employees who were laid off or are currently furloughed.
Teachers at Portland’s six Jewish preschools and three day schools along with health aides at Jewish Family & Child Service will each receive $250. Furloughed staff will receive up to $250 each. Health-care workers at Cedar Sinai Park will receive $100 (CSP already pledged additional year-end funds for all employees).
“It is our hope these funds will show how much our community cares about the incredible work these professionals are doing day in and day out,” says JFGP President and CEO Marc Blattner. “And for those Jewish community employees who were laid off or are furloughed, we want to show we are thinking of them during this difficult time. It is our hope that as the vaccine gets distributed our agencies will be able to welcome these people back.”
“We have never seen this type of pandemic,” said JFGP Board Chair Lauren Goldstein at the Dec. 18 board meeting approving the relief package. “This is an exceptional time, and there is no precedent.”
Board member Karen Blauer said, “Acknowledging those who play a vital role serving our community’s most fragile populations while risking their own health and wellness clearly reflects Jewish values and the mission of our agency. What our frontline has done during this pandemic is nothing short of heroic; they’ve answered the campaign call of our lifetime!”
While the Federation typically allocates dollars to the community’s agencies to meet community needs, JFGP past chair Ed Tonkin agreed with Lauren and Karen that these are extraordinary times. “What are our agencies? They are conduits that help real people one by one. And why not support those working for our Jewish community?” Most of the frontline staff at CSP and JFCS are hourly workers.
OTHER ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE
In addition to the subsidies to frontline and furloughed workers, the local Jewish community continues to provide emergency assistance through two programs. Thanks to the Jewish community’s Greater Portland COVID-19-Emergency Campaign, emergency relief is available through JFCS Emergency Aid and the Jewish Free Loan Program. The emergency campaign is a joint effort of the Jewish Federation and the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation.
JFCS has funds available to help individuals and families weather the economic storm triggered by the pandemic that threatens our health. As of Dec. 21, the emergency aid program has helped 224 families with a total of $141,000 in aid. For more information or assistance, contact JFCS Emergency Aid Program Manager Caitlin DeBoer at 503-226-7079 ext. 134 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jewish Free Loan can provide a no-interest loan of up to $1,000 to individuals who have been impacted by the COVID-19 virus. In addition, loans of up to $4,000 are available in the free loan’s regular program. For more information, visit jewishportland.org/freeloan or call 503-892-7417.
On the same day the board approved the employee subsidies, Jewish Free Loan gave an emergency loan to a woman in Springfield to pay her rent and avoid eviction with her 1-month-old and two dogs. She was laid off due to COVID and was fleeing an abusive relationship with her former spouse. Jewish Federation of Lane County (which also received crisis funds for emergency aid) gave her a food gift card to buy formula and dog food.
“She is starting a new job next month, and we were able to help her bridge the gap to her first paycheck,” said JFGP Director of Finance Ben Winkleblack, who staffs the Free Loan. “Along with the board discussion today, it is clear that we are doing our best to help people in need during a very difficult year. I am proud of our work and feel blessed that I get to work with such caring lay leadership and professional colleagues.”