As soon as the COVID-19 crisis hit, we immediately recognized what a devastating effect this emergency was going to have on our refugee clients who are small- or micro-businesses owners. Many of them lack the savings they need to weather a long lock down. Many came to the US without family, friend, and business networks to rely on for support in this unprecedented situation.
Recognizing the urgent need, we worked quickly to launch our Emergency Grant Fund for NYC Refugee Business Owners. This fund provides immediate cash grants to BCNA’s refugee clients who have been most acutely affected by illness or who are unable to work because of the lock down and have run out of savings.
Thanks to the generosity of all of you who have given so far, we’ve already able to make 29 cash grants for a total of $21,500. Those grants have provided the means for families to buy food and basic necessities and pay their rent while they are unable to work.
“It made us feel we are not forgotten and things will be okay…”
One of our first grants went to Afanou A., a refugee from Togo, who sells African art and masks in street markets and fairs. Because of the lock down, he has had no source of income for over eight weeks and he and his family are struggling. His emergency grant will help him to support his wife and three young children until the markets are allowed to open again.
Another grant went to Salimata, whose hair salon business has been closed since March and who is taking care of her two grandchildren while her daughter is stranded in Burkina Faso by travel restrictions. Because she has no income, the grant will help her cover food and diaper costs for the children.
And a third grant went to Ibrahima, an Uber driver, who is a refugee from Guinea. In March both he and his wife, who works as a hair braider, contracted COVID-19. As a result, they were both unable to continue working. When they ran out of savings, they received an eviction notice from their landlord.
Because we have also assigned a dedicated staff person to provide our clients with crucial information about relief programs, medical help, and tenants’ rights, we were able to inform Ibrahima about the city decree prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants during the crisis. That meant he, his wife, and their two children could stay in their home while they are getting back on their feet.
We are particularly appreciative that the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) has crucial information on COVID-19 resources in numerous languages on their website, something we are sharing with all our clients.
What’s Next for our Refugee Clients
We are currently processing more grants as quickly as we can, motivated the kind of harrowing stories our refugee clients continue to share with us, like the grantee who thanked us saying, “I was only eating one meal a day to make my money last.”
As we continue to support our clients during the lock down, we are also preparing to support them – with loans, information, and other resources – once it’s safe enough for them to either restart their small businesses or find or create other post-pandemic new businesses.
If you would like to contribute any amount to the BCNA Emergency Fund for NYC Refugee Business Owners please click here.