“Sometimes, I feel like I’m running in place.”
Damaris is no stranger to hard work. After coming back home to Orange County from South Florida, the 22-year-old had worked hard over the years to pave her way through college to pursue a career as a neonatal nurse. She had gotten all the pieces lined up to set herself up for success, but then COVID-19 happened.
“I had a grant to pay for school, I had just gotten two jobs to pay the bills while I finished my last two semesters of school. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. But then, COVID-19 threw it all off. All of my plans that I had worked so hard on weren’t an option anymore.”
Damaris lost both of her new jobs and had to put school on hold until she could figure out how to pay her bills. She felt frustrated and lost. She had never gone through anything like this before and didn’t know where to turn. Then she found United Way.
She picked up her phone and called the 211 Information and Referral Crisis Line for help. Damaris was one of the nearly 50,000 calls United Way received in March 2020 following the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Central Florida and many business closures. The ALICE population – or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – was disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19. Despite working hard and often multiple jobs, ALICE lives paycheck-to-paycheck to cover basic necessities with no room for savings. Nearly 50% of Central Florida households struggled to make ends meet before the pandemic. For many, COVID-19 was the emergency that pushed them over the financial edge. In anticipation of community needs, United Way launched the ALICE Recovery Fund to support families and prevent homelessness by providing rent, mortgage, or utility assistance. Damaris met the criteria for the ALICE Recovery Fund launched to support households unable to make ends meet as a result of the economic consequences of COVID-19. She said, that phone call changed her frame of mind.
“It was very emotional. I was so relieved to hear that I was able to receive some support to help me get by. It made me believe that I should still have hope.”