As part of UNHP’s This is What We Do series, The Northwest Bronx Resource Center held two webinars for NWBRC Program Users and Bronx residents. As new programs become available for those struggling financially from the pandemic, UNHP felt it was urgent to share that information with Bronx residents and those who use the financial and housing programs at the Northwest Bronx Resource Center. The Bronx was hit hard and early by Covid and while the health news has improved, the economic consequences for Bronx residents, already impacted by long-standing inequities around wages, housing, and healthcare, are significant. In addition to sharing information by text, email newsletter, and through tenant flyers in UNHP properties, UNHP offered a Spanish and English Webinar about the new Covid Relief programs with a focus on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), The Advanced Child Tax Credit and the Excluded Workers program. The Webinars were attended by over 50 participants and offered a live Q & A session. Led by Jumelia Abrahamson, UNHP’s Director of Programs, NWBRC bilingual staff were also available during the webinar to provide follow-up in the chat and answer questions.
The Spanish language webinar was held on Tuesday, August 10th, and drew 33 out of the 137 registered participants. The Webinar was held via Zoom, and on UNHP’s Facebook page. Follow-up communication with all those who registered shared the recording as well as information for program assistance. The English version of the Webinar event was held two days later on August 12th, and 21 of the 77 people registered attended live. Both sessions had a lively Q&A session with attendees asking specific questions in order to apply for the highlighted Covid relief programs and additional questions about other UNHP programs including assistance with the NYC Affordable Housing Lottery. Since the webinar, there are close to 100 new views of the Facebook Live recording.
Looking for information to share in English and Spanish? Information and links to these programs can be found in UNHP’s NWBRC Newsletter in Spanish and English and the slide presentation in both languages are available on our publications page; English presentation and Spanish Presentation. Click here to view the webinar in English and in Spanish.
The Webinar began with a review of zoom etiquette and general guidelines for internet usage and protection. UNHP took a poll of who was present in the virtual space, asking who had utilized our services previously and who was having their first experience with UNHP that day. Many people had previously used our services, but there was a good amount of people who had not before. This was a perfect segway into discussing the resources we offer! Then, we acknowledged that the programs we were about to discuss were all from the government or organizations, so the links to them all ended in gov or org, making them official websites. We also emphasized that they are FREE so no one should ever be charging to help you apply to them. We then began discussing the Advanced Child tax credit. This sparked many questions, particularly with how one may qualify. We went over how to apply for an ITIN if they did not already have one, and an example of how to budget the money you receive from the tax credit. Once this was clearer, we moved on to the Excluded Workers Fund (EWF). This, as we expected, was a very dense topic, with many questions and interest. We discussed what you would need to apply, such as proof of ID, proof of residence, and proof of work and how many points each piece of evidence was worth. This was important because the documentation they could provide, is what determines their eligibility for the two different tiers of the program. One client asked a very important question during the Spanish session, around what tax implications will recipients of the EWF will face next tax season. “Quería saber, una vez que aplica para el EWF aplicación. Tiene que pagar este dinero al IRS cuando uno haga los taxes?” As a lump sum payment, this benefit will have to be included in the 2021 tax forms and depending on the household size of the file and other income this receives/earns in the year a portion may be taxable.
Then we moved on to discuss the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Many people were curious as to the different organizations that were providing application assistance, and we made sure to refer them to BronxWorks, NAICA, and the official ERAP hotline. We then discussed some of the smaller and newer programs such as the 50 dollar relief on internet bills, the COVID-19 Funeral service fund, and the grant for those who work in licensed child care. As we did for all of the other programs, we plugged in the worksheet that will help clients determine next steps, and to assure they have all of the paperwork necessary to apply for programs that they are eligible for. Lastly, we quickly discussed the Housing Connect lotteries that are available and advised those interested to call us for assistance and more information.
We ended the recorded portion of the webinar by letting everyone know that we would send out communication within the next couple of days, providing the slides we presented, quick links, and the worksheets. We also strongly encouraged people to contact us with any updates about their progress and to ask any questions about the information we provided. Then, we ended the recording and allowed people to fire away questions about anything they were still curious about. This unrecorded portion, allowed attendees to be more personal and direct with their questions. During this time, we referred back to the slides and reemphasized any information that may not have been the clearest. There were far more questions in the Spanish version, than the English version of the event, but we hope that everyone left with new information and greater knowledge on how to navigate these COVID-19 relief resources during these very trying times.
As part of our current outreach to the community, UNHP has texted over 8,000 households who may benefit from any of these hardship programs. In addition, we visited tenants in West Tremont and reviewed eligibility criteria with local residents. About 60 out of 250 tenants in UNHP buildings have applied for the ERAP. Many of these attendees have scheduled appointments with us or were referred to local partners for in-person assistance. If you missed this event and will like to watch the highlights, please visit our FB page. Recordings can be viewed here: English session on our Facebook page. La grabación se puede ver aquí