Immigrant families who missed out on pandemic support need our help

Some are too proud to ask, others are afraid.

But many immigrant families living locally, especially in Monroe and Vernon counties, need help, said Couleecap’s Nidia Alcantar. She knows many of the families personally through her work as an interpreter with the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District.

“Most of the Hispanic people we have here, they’re hard workers, they work as many hours as they can,” said Alcantar, who knows a thing or two about hard work herself. 

In addition to serving on Couleecap’s board, she’s also an on call interpreter for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, a back-up secretary for the school district, a member of Norwalk’s village board and helps out at the Monroe County Health Department.

When Covid-19 hit, many local immigrant families lost jobs, or had their hours at factories and in service positions cut, Alcantar said. But for the undocumented, there was no federal assistance to keep them afloat in the form of pandemic unemployment benefits or the stimulus checks most other families received. Now, bills are piling up.

“They are talking to their landlords, calling the energy and water because they don’t have money,” Alcantar told The La Crosse Independent.

Couleecap, a nonprofit that combats poverty, decided to step in and create the Covid-19 Immigrant Family Support Fund, which has a goal of raising $10,000 to help over 100 local families and only 13 days left to do it. So far, the fund has banked $1,750 from 15 contributors. The money raised will help families with housing and food costs, pay for diapers and baby formula and help with bills.

Hetti Brown, Couleecap’s executive director, said because the families missed out on the public assistance that helped so many others during the pandemic, it’s vital the wider community steps up to help.

“Families continue to face financial challenges to Covid-19, but immigrant families, unlike their neighbors, do not have access to state or federal unemployment benefits,” Brown said. “Your support is critical to helping families pay for housing, food and other bills.”

Alcantar said some of the families are afraid to ask for help as they are worried immigration authorities could be called. But she’s trying to allay those fears by letting people know that Couleecap handles requests for support confidentially. Alcantar tells of one local family with five children. One parent lost work at a restaurant, the other had their hours cut at a factory.

“Mom started crying when she heard Couleecap was going to help,” Alcantar said, adding that one of the children later drew a picture to thank the donors who were helping his parents.

Now, anyone who donates $60 or more to the support fund will receive a set of notecards featuring artwork (like the picture at the top of this story) created by the children that the money will help. Find out more about Couleecap’s Covid-19 Immigrant Family Support Fund and how to make a donation here.

By Eric Timmons. Email questions to lacrosseindependent@gmail.com.

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