MILL CREEK — Juanita Juarez knew her heart and lungs were vulnerable after being diagnosed in 2018.
But the 47-year-old mum with four children has had to keep working during the coronavirus pandemic. They needed nearly $2,000 for rent on their Mill Creek apartment, plus money for gas and insurance for his truck to get to work in Redmond and Seattle. And there were groceries and other bills.
Then she caught COVID in September, which further weakened her critical organs. Juarez “nearly died” and was hospitalized the second day after falling ill, she said.
When the coronavirus hit again in January, she said doctors told her she needed heart surgery in March. She underwent the procedure that kept her out of work for weeks.
“Now I have nothing left, but I have a whole life to pay for,” Juarez said.
Through partnerships with the hospital, she has connected with people from the YWCA of Snohomish County. The organization’s regional office in Everett paid $2,000 to repair his truck and covered a few months’ rent.
“It’s really hard to be prepared for a life situation,” Juarez said. “Without this help, I would not have been able to continue.”
She was not alone.
Snohomish County sent $1.8 million of its $160 million US federal Rescue Plan Act to family resource centers. The county donated money to ChildStrive, Cocoon House, Stanwood-Camano Community Resource Center, North Counties Family Services, Take the Next Step, Volunteers of America Western Washington in Arlington and Sky Valley and YWCA.
These agencies have helped more than 1,700 people with pandemic-related bills as well as employment and social services. To qualify, they had to be at or below 60% of the region’s median income. That works out to $5,788 per month for a family of four. Not everyone usually distributes money like this and had to put the process in place in response to the pandemic.
Most families who received money from the programs earned half of it, according to the county.
When average rents are around $1,800 for a two-bedroom apartment, a family’s monthly income can drop quickly after other expenses. This leaves many people without much wiggle room in their bank account in case of an emergency or job loss.
“The pandemic has been very difficult for working families in our county, which means the need for support services has skyrocketed,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said in a news release. “That’s why we’re investing our federal stimulus funds in these youth and family resource centers. They offer families the option of receiving personal, face-to-face assistance from a provider who is focused on helping meet their needs.
Karla Danson, director of community resources for the YWCA, said the organization is getting “phone call after phone call” asking for help. The YWCA helped with car payments and repairs, utility bills and more. Rent was a rarity and had to be directly related to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
“People who were barely getting by couldn’t get by anymore,” Danson said. “This money is just getting people out of a temporary situation they were in, giving them some breathing room.”
The YWCA got $150,000 from the county. His program also included helping people with their careers, including connecting with education and workforce development programs, as well as creating resumes.
Resuming her resume worked for Juarez, who was hired at the auto shop where she took her truck for repairs. She started office work at the end of June and no longer has the commute that used to take at least an hour each way.
ChildStrive, an Everett-based organization that works with families for child success, received approximately $70,000. All but $15,000 has been spent, and the rest is pending, said director of development and communications Rebecca Mauldin.
People use it on adaptive equipment and car seats for children with special needs, car repairs, child care, phone and utility bills, laptops for students, gasoline, groceries, maternity clothes, transportation and, especially for job seekers, telephones.
“It’s really hard to find a job if the job can’t call you,” Mauldin said.
The $70,000 went or is going to 111 households, totaling about 300 people, she said.
Most of these households identified as Hispanic or Latino. More than a third lived in southwest Everett and its unincorporated areas in the 98204 zip code.
“These are hard-working families,” Mauldin said. “They don’t want our help. They ask for it because they desperately need it.
Juarez said the money kept her family from becoming homeless and hopes future programs can continue to help others in situations like hers. She also encouraged people to seek help if the bills pile up.
“I’m definitely not the only person who’s been through what I’m going through,” Juarez said. “I am not unique.”
Call 2-1-1 for rental assistance, 425-388-3880 for utility bill assistance, and visit www.snohomishcountyfoodbankcoalition.org/our-food-bank-members for a list of banks food in Snohomish County.