July 27, 2021 By Ryan Songalia
More than $1.5 million in emergency disaster relief has been distributed to families with elementary school children living in Queens neighborhoods hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
NYC Kids RISE, which helps families with elementary school kids save for college, has distributed at least one $150 gift card to nearly 5,000 families who live in School District 30 to use for food, Internet or other expenses. The cards started going out in April 2020.
The district covers 39 elementary schools, including schools in Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Corona—areas at the epicenter of the pandemic. The district also includes schools in Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside.
The funds have been awarded to parents in the district whose children have been enrolled in the NYC Kids Rise college saving plan. Most parents with elementary school children in District 30 are enrolled in the Save for College Program and were given $100 seed money.
“This emergency relief effort highlights both the versatility of the Save for College Program distribution platform, and demonstrates the continued importance of investing in the social infrastructure within neighborhoods,” said Debra-Ellen Glickstein, executive director of NYC Kids RISE.
“We are proud that this $1.5 million not only supported families’ urgent needs, but also that much of the $1.5 million was dollars that were circulated at businesses in our neighborhood.”
The emergency cash came from a number of funders, including Robin Hood’s Relief Fund, the Gray Foundation, District Council 9 and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), The Thomas and Jeanne Elmezzi Private Foundation, and the Zegar Family Fund.
Councilmember Daniel Dromm, himself a former schoolteacher, said the emergency disaster relief was a welcome boost to families struggling with the pandemic.
“Over the past year, families living at the epicenter of the pandemic in Queens lost critical income, services, and loved ones,” said Dromm, who represents District 25 in Queens. “The way NYC Kids RISE was able to quickly mobilize their network with local schools in a moment of crisis demonstrates how local institutions can become part of an ecosystem of support around our students and their families.”
More than 13,000 students in the district – or 95 percent of eligible students – are enrolled in the “Save for College” program, which launched in fall of 2017 as a pilot program in District 30.
The college savings program is set to be expanded citywide this fall as part of the “NYC Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan” that was announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio on June 17.