By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – As the Colorado state legislature prepares for a special session to consider aid for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the federal government is stalled on passing any relief, local institutions have stepped up to support families unable to get by in the current job market.

(credit: CBS)

“I started off by managing and then just serving, and then with COVID, everything just went down,” Michael, who didn’t want to give his last name, told CBS4. “I mean it’s scary. How are you going to pay for your rent? Pay for your car? Pay for your phones? How are you going to do anything?”

He and his wife, Mariah, have four children including a 3-month-old son. They both worked at popular sit-down chain restaurants. It changed in an instant for them without warning or enough time to prepare.

They went from working multiple roles in a restaurant for 60 hours a week to out of a job.

“It was just definitely some hard times thinking what we were going to do because we both do the same thing,” Mariah said. “It was really stressful at the time because we have three kids and one on the way.”

(credit: CBS)

They didn’t have benefits or health insurance, relying on the tips from their shifts to make up the majority of their income. Their lease was up and the rising cost of housing was out of their budget. Unemployment funds and food stamps did not process their claims for the entire time they needed that help.

“Then it went to ‘OK sorry, you’re not coming to work tomorrow.’ So it was stressful to say the least,” Mariah said. “Whatever we had in our pocket was what we had.”

When they learned about the STAR Transitional Program at Denver Rescue Mission, they found a way to get affordable housing with a minimal income. They had to wait a month because there was list of people in front of them. Their case manager works with them, not just on finding permanent housing, but also on better financial planning for their whole family.

(credit: CBS)

Michael has found work at a hospital managing the kitchen, and Mariah is in school planning to get to full-time work again in April, focused on a career in legal or office administration.

“It was definitely a struggle, wondering what we were going to do, where we were going before we came here.”

“We started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Shawn Chitnis

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