AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Even as COVID-19 cases drop, community organizations are still seeing a high demand for help around the Denver metro area, including one nonprofit in Aurora that focuses on helping on undocumented immigrants and refugees.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Village Exchange Center has remained open, but the lines have never been as long as in the last few weeks.
“We’ve had people since 7:00 this morning,” said Executive Director and Cofounder Amanda Blaurock.
Each day, thousands come for the nonprofit’s food pantry, but lately the tent out front is drawing all the attention.
“The people outside are here to be screened for the Left Behind Workers Fund, which is a fund that provides $1,500 in cash assistance to individuals who are ineligible for unemployment insurance or other subsidies,” said Blaurock.
The Village Exchange Center, in partnership with Impact Charitable and Social Venture Partners, began screening and distributing grants for the fund in 2020, but within the past few weeks, people have come out in droves.
Each grant given out is strictly for undocumented immigrants and refugees, many of whom paid into the system over the years, but got no unemployment, stimulus, or pandemic help when times got tough.
“Right now, I don’t have a job. I don’t have any money, and I need to pay my rent, my bills, my medicine,” said one woman who asked to remain anonymous.
She’s one of thousands who have lined up to apply for assistance over the last week. Her screening the week before took only an hour, and the money came the next day.
“It’s like a miracle because not a lot of people do that for us,” she said.
Blaurock said it’s unclear why the need is suddenly so large, but it could be because of an influx of new staff members and word of mouth.
“We think it’s because we brought in a number of leaders from the community who really know a lot of the individuals and are well trusted,” she said.
Regardless, the needs of this underserved community are clear in Blaurock’s eyes, and the more than $10 million fund can only go so far.
“Providing this dignifying grant to them, I think, really is a wonderful start, but it’s absolutely not enough,” Blaurock said.
The fund is set to continue until June. VEC has several other ongoing efforts for undocumented community, including an upcoming vaccine equity fund.
You can learn more about the fund, as well as future efforts at https://villageexchangecenter.org/.