By Amanda Cregan, Bucks County Courier Times Correspondent
Bucks County residents and business owners have a new opportunity to help hard-working people experiencing a financial crisis.
In 2017, the United Way of Bucks County will launch an Emergency Needs Fund that would assist locals experiencing a unique circumstance such as a sudden job loss, serious illness or major car repair.
“We’re trying to catch those people who are otherwise falling through the safety net,” said Marissa Christie, chief development officer for the United Way of Bucks County.
Angel was one of those people. Expecting her first child, the Bristol woman went to her doctor for a scheduled checkup, but testing revealed that the baby was under stress. The doctor chose to perform an emergency cesarean section at 36 weeks.
“I really wasn’t prepared yet to have him,” said Angel, who asked that her last name not be used. “Everything at home was set for him except I didn’t have the money saved up to pay the bills.”
For the last three years she has been employed full-time as a mail handler at a U.S. Postal Service distribution center. The postal service doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, and Angel said she didn’t know that she should have signed up for short-term disability benefits. She was pregnant and it was too late to sign up because the insurance company considered it a pre-existing condition, she noted.
Her newborn son spent his first two months at a neonatal intensive care unit in a Philadelphia hospital. On unpaid leave from work and recovering from a C-section, Angel commuted to the city six days a week to visit her baby. Besides trying to pay her regular bills, she had to handle the additional cost of gas and parking fees, and she found herself unable to pay her rent and facing eviction.
“It was scary,” she said.
The Bucks County Opportunity Council stepped in and helped pay a portion of her rent that month. As soon as doctors gave her the OK, Angel returned to work. Her 4-month-old is now home from the hospital and healthy. Thanks to the one-time financial help, Angel said she didn’t lose her apartment.
“It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”
The newly created United Way Emergency Needs Fund is designed to assist people such as Angel. It’s a neighbor-helping-neighbor program aimed at getting people back on their feet after a financial difficulty so their entire lives won’t be derailed. The program will be administered in collaboration with nonprofits like the Bucks County Opportunity Council.