Latino immigrants serve a critical role in our country, especially during this health crisis. They are also being hit the hardest during this global pandemic. An organization that is stepping up to break the cycle of poverty and lend support to hundreds of Latino immigrant families during this crisis is Canal Alliance.
Right after the Shelter in Place (SIP) order was issued, Canal Alliance, which serves an average of 4,000 families annually, shifted its operation to allow all its employees to work from home and continue to offer its much-needed services to Canal’s community in San Rafael. Canal Alliance offers immigration legal services, English classes, work development, college preparedness and safety net services to low-income families—many of which have an average salary below $30,000.
“Being able to serve the community has been crucial because low-income immigrants have been among the first in Marin County to face job and income loss. Many of them work in low-paying hourly jobs that do not provide the option of working from home,” said Omar Carrera, Chief Executive Officer at Canal Alliance.
Thanks to contributions from private corporations, including Comcast, foundations, individuals and other community partners, Canal Alliance has raised $1.85 million in just four weeks to support emergency operations.
To date, Canal Alliance has assisted over 1,000 families, and has received over 200 requests that are currently being processed.
“Canal Alliance relies on strategic partnerships with the private sector to accomplish our mission of helping hardworking Latino immigrants and their families overcome the generational cycle of poverty by lifting barriers to their success. At times of crisis, investments and support from our partners are even more critical, because the barriers that Latino immigrants face can seem insurmountable. We applaud Comcast’s leadership in improving internet access for members of our community, and for the company’s investment in our Client Support Fund, which will provide direct cash assistance to members of this community who have already experienced significant income and job loss,” said Carrera.
During the first week in SIP, Canal Alliance surveyed 258 families who participate in its education and workforce programs. Through the survey, the organization found that over 50 percent of households had at least one adult that had been laid off, over 70 percent had some reduction in income and close to 20 percent were concerned about their ability to work because of childcare needs. After learning of these increased needs through the survey, Canal Alliance decided to establish the Client Support Fund to provide direct financial assistance to clients and community members to help them pay rent or utilities and purchase groceries, diapers, utilities and medications.
“We wanted to distribute the funds quickly and to provide an amount that would help with a family’s urgent needs for groceries, diapers, medication or utilities. We preemptively provided checks to all families of students in our University Prep and Workforce Development Programs,” Carrera said. “Remaining funds have been made available to other individuals and families in the community who have lost income during this crisis.”
These are some other ways in which Canal Alliance is helping the community:
- University Prep – After a brief program suspension, the afterschool program for youth is now offering online tutoring support for students in alignment with district operations.
- Adult Education and Workforce Development – Education and workforce programs for adults have been discontinued as they are unable to offer them remotely. All education program staff are providing remote case management to help students and families meet their most urgent needs; they have made calls to over 450 families in their programs to assess clients’ needs and help identify ways Canal Alliance might address those needs.
- Immigration Legal Services (ILS) – The ILS team transitioned almost overnight to a virtual law office and continues to file cases that have deadlines or for clients who may soon age out of programs. ILS is also responding to new immigration issues that are arising as a result of the crisis, while other immigration services have been suspended due to closures of courts and other agencies.
- Social Services –Case managers and intake specialists are serving on the frontline of the agency’s response to the health crisis and its impact on the Latino immigrant community. The team is responding to a high need for social services and is also taking requests from community members for direct financial assistance through the agency’s Client Support Fund.
- Census Efforts – Their team is one of the lead agencies working with the County of Marin to ensure an accurate Census count. The team shifted initial plans and continued outreach efforts by mailing postcard reminders and putting out lawn signs in the Canal neighborhood. The team also hosted a Spanish-language Facebook Live event to encourage everyone fill out a census questionnaire, and to encourage family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers to do the same.
To learn more about Canal Alliance’s efforts to address the health crisis or to donate, please go here.