Sara had beaten the odds. She considered herself lucky. After emerging from the foster care system, she had worked tirelessly to pave her way into college to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
“A lot of people don’t see it, but when I look around a hospital, there are lots of beautiful moments happening all around. I want to contribute to that,” she said. Sara remembers that college just clicked for her. She knew this was where she was supposed to be. Admittedly, at first, Sara was a little intimidated. She proves she’s motivated every day by working two jobs to cover bills while she attends school part-time.
She’s not afraid of obstacles or working hard to achieve her goals, but now, there is a big challenge standing in her way, COVID-19. Sara represents one of 350,000 households in Central Florida who are ALICE – or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. Nearly 50% of the region’s families are standing at the edge of a financial cliff with one unexpected bill or reduction in hours, leaving them unable to make ends meet. COVID-19 was that emergency for Sara.
“I was lucky enough not to get sick, but I’m definitely feeling the impacts of this disease.”
Sara was furloughed from both of her jobs and had no luck with cracking the widely-criticized unemployment system. With no income, no unemployment assistance, no support system to turn to, and bills due now, Sara didn’t know what to do.
She remembered seeing a poster at her school about United Way and decided it was worth a shot. After connecting with a case manager who assessed her situation, Sara got the call back she had been hoping for.
“I was so relieved when my case manager called me to tell me that United Way was able to help,” recalled Sara. “I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.” United Way’s Destination Graduation program supported Sara with rental assistance to help get her through this tough time, but she is determined not to lose sight of her goals.
“Pushing through and having determination is going to make this happen for me. People need a support group to help you plan and overcome challenges. United Way was that for me in this instance. They lifted me up.”
Although Sara and the 350,000 ALICE households in Central Florida have a long way to go to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19, there is hope.
“Sometimes, all you need is a little hope to get moving forward.”