Helping Neighbors: Struggle Continues for Island Businesses and Workers
While the intensity of Red Tide and its wildlife destruction varies, the effects of the crisis for our residents and workers continues. During the August and September months, FISH has seen a large increase in households seeking assistance from the Food Pantry, as well as those requesting financial assistance due to job loss, reduction in hours and medical problems associated with Red Tide exposure.
States Maggi Feiner, FISH President & CEO, “We are heartbroken to hear the stories of loss of work hours that individuals have suffered due to the algae blooms and red tide. Our small businesses and workers on the islands are suffering. Now we are having a hard time keeping up with all the cases coming through the door. The island is like a ghost town, the employers are struggling which trickles down to the employees. Can you imagine working only 8 hours a week and not being able to find another job to supplement? I think we are going to feel the effects for many months to come. It's worse than a hurricane as there is no funding for individuals. Thankfully, our community has been very supportive as have been several foundations, and now FISH can be here to assist our neighbors as they struggle to recover from these impacts.”
“Just when I thought I was beginning to turn the corner financially, this happens [referring to Red Tide]. Now it feels like I’m going backwards every day, and it’s bad, really bad,” states a fishing guide visiting the FISH Food Pantry. To respond to the ever-increasing requests for food assistance, FISH has suspended their policy on the number of times island workers can visit the Food Pantry.
Nitza Lopez, FISH Case Manager, works with individuals seeking financial assistance for rent, utilities and medically related expenses. “The number of new cases since August is mind boggling; people are coming through our doors nonstop. It’s hard to hear how our workforce is suffering so greatly and how it affects their household and children. Many have gone from 25-35 work hours per week down to 10. Recently, I met with a woman working as a hostess in a Captiva restaurant. Since the Red Tide crisis has slowed business, the restaurant can only offer two days of work per week. While she is trying to find more work hours at other establishments, she cannot afford her medication and insulin or rent payment this month. I’m glad we are here to help”
Through September 30th, FISH has assisted 72 households with temporary emergency financial assistance due to Red Tide. The Food Pantry usage has increased, with 50 new households applying for the program due to Red Tide. Inquires for Red Tide Relief are received daily. Thankfully, FISH has received very generous support from the individuals, businesses and foundations to help fund the Red Tide Relief Program. Those requesting temporary emergency financial assistance due to the Red Tide crisis must meet with FISH Social Services for a detailed intake process. Financial documentation must be provided to FISH before case approval.
Each case is evaluated privately, and on an individual and per instance basis. There is no guarantee of financial assistance from FISH. To learn more about the FISH Red Tide Relief Emergency Financial Assistance program, contact Nitza Lopez, Case Manager or Kathy Y. Monroe, MSG, Program Director at 239-472-4775. To learn more about FISH, please visit www.fishofsancap.org