Immigrant Fund a Stopgap for Unserved Families

The pandemic and its casualties have brought to light the vulnerabilities of many of our neighbors. “For some of our immigrant and refugee families – surviving from one paycheck to the next, and many in the hardest hit service sector – lost jobs and wages have pushed them to the edge without a safety net,” says Claire Hundelt, Executive Director of Marillac Mission Fund. Hundelt spearheaded – along with the Immigrant Service Provider’s Network (ISPN) – the creation of the Immigrant Family Emergency Response (IFER) Fund to assist COVID-affected immigrants in financial distress.

Fiscally managed by YouthBridge, Hundelt says the IFER Fund has been an all-volunteer, collaborative effort unlike any other, involving the ISPN and its 42-member service agencies, funding partners (significantly, Marillac, John and Joan Vatterott Foundation, Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis and Missouri Foundation for Health), community members and the St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America. “Others across the country were developing similar funds in the early days of the crisis, but I don’t believe any mobilized an effort of this scale or as quickly,” she says. “We were organized within a week.”

Hundelt says the Fund also is unique in that it has provided assistance in the form of direct cash. “We trust that families know best how to use financial resources for their own lives, so we have given them the independence to do so,” she says, adding that overwhelmingly applicants stated they intended to use the funds for rent or mortgage, utilities, food or child care. Between May and September of 2020, the Fund had distributed $372,000 to 731 immigrant families in the Greater St. Louis Region. “Our hope is to be able to provide another round of funding in 2021.”

Total 2020 COVID-19 Relief: $472,000
IFER: $372,000; Nonprofit Relief: $100,000