Finding help to pay bills

March 12, 2009 8:44:49 PM PDT
As some companies begin to cut back hours and lay off workers, a growing number of families are finding it nearly impossible to pay their monthly bills, but there is a new program that offers quick, emergency help.After getting laid off in January from her job as an administrative assistant, life is an uneasy gamble for Velma Hemmings.

"I have no income. I have no money saved. I have a mortgage. I have a car note," Hemmings said.

Her list of monthly expenses goes on and on.

"Like anybody else, you couldn't imagine it was going to be this bad," Hemmings said.

Rasheedah Ahmad is newly unemployed and back in school after losing her hours as a bartender.

"A couple of months ago, there was cutting back and cutting back and more cutting back until one day I looked and I said there was nothing else for me to cut," Ahmad said.

Velma and Rasheedah are actively looking for work, but until they find new jobs they're both at risk of losing their homes.

Velma needs $563 to pay her mortgage this month.

Rasheedah needs $925 to pay her rent.

"So I got on the computer and I just Googled help with rent and Modest Needs came up," Ahmad said.

Action News first told you about Modest Needs back in October.

Through Modest Needs Ellen Voell got $900 for a new water heater.

Nyra Capurso got $765 to cover one month's rent and her electricity bill.

But Modest Needs used to require all applicants be employed.

Consumers had to prove they were facing only a very short-term emergency because of an unexpected event.

However, in response to the downturn in the economy and the rise in layoffs, Modest Needs has now created The Bridge Grant.

"There was an overwhelming response, an overwhelming need for this kind of grant. The qualifications are very simple. You must have been out of work for less than 90 days and you have to show you're actively looking for work," Keith Taylor of Modest Needs Founder said.

Modest Needs conducts extensive background checks so be prepared to submit documents and proof of all the claims on your online application.

If you qualify, Modest Needs will then post your story on its website.

"So the goal is to help them overcome those kinds of short-term emergencies while they look for work, so that they don't end up on the street in the course of trying to find a new job," Taylor said.

And here's how Bridge Grants get funded: Total strangers read applicants' stories and donate money, sometimes just a couple dollars.

It isn't long before those dollars add up to fulfill a request and once that happens, Modest Needs sends a check directly to the landlord, mortgage company, or other vendor an applicant has specified.

"They'll pay just one bill, the maximum amount would be $1000," Hemmings said.

It is a one-time helping hand, but Velma says it could be all she needs to get back on her feet.

Modest Needs does have a number of different kinds of grants.

This organization creates a cycle where about 70-percent of grant recipients later become long-term Modest Needs donors to help others.


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