Local | Mind, Body & Spirit

Jewish Emergency Financial Assistance at JFCS expands in time of need

Deborah Kalar-Crowder

Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Southern Arizona assists Jewish individuals facing financial crises in this difficult time. Jewish Emergency Financial Assistance, sometimes referred to as LEAF (Local Emergency Assistance Fund), provides financial assistance, and case management plays a crucial role in ensuring the program effectively helps those in need. JEFA currently is being expanded for Jewish families struggling to make ends meet due to the coronavirus.

“We are grateful to the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, which have provided additional funding for food assistance for the Jewish community,” says Carlos Hernandez, JFCS president and CEO. “At times like this, it is important for organizations to get together to find ways to help those families hardest hit for their ability to maintain their needs.”

Hernandez says requests at the moment are not frequent but there is a rising number of calls. “We are tracking the volume of calls daily to gauge the increase since we’ve put information out there. We are in frequent contact with the Federation and Foundation to tune in to what we are hearing from the community.” He says what they are likely to see is people having difficulty meeting needs for food, medicine, and utility bills.

Case manager Deborah Kalar-Crowder emphasizes that she must regularly analyze a client’s entire financial situation to help them. JEFA can only provide assistance with items if there is a paper bill or invoice prior to payment, which is not always the case. An individual who cannot afford medication, for example, will need some creativity on the part of case management to receive help, as pharmacies typically do not issue paper bills. In such situations, Kalar-Crowder works with the client to determine other areas where she can assist with the goal of freeing up money so the client can pay for the medication.

This process involves asking many questions about the client’s financial situation and expenses, which requires a great deal of tact on the part of case management. Hopefully, the client and case manager can come up with another expense that does include a paper bill. JEFA can assist with that expense, saving the client enough money to pay for the original emergency.

When it comes to JEFA, case management often faces many complications. It is not uncommon for clients to call and to express a need for help with “everything,” says Kalar-Crowder. It takes a great deal of patience and expertise to focus on issues the program can address. Case management must frequently negotiate with utility companies and landlords, both to verify the claims of clients and to work out solutions.

Case managers also provide a degree of emotional support to clients. Those who come to JEFA for support are often highly emotional due to the nature of needing financial assistance and do not always make the best decisions. The case manager talks the clients through the steps that must be taken and guides them in the direction of crisis prevention and self-sufficiency.

It is clear that case management is just as important to fulfilling the needs of JEFA clients as funding for direct services. Case management ensures that funds are spent in productive ways that will actually help individuals and families in need and provides support to help those same individuals and families achieve stability.

AJP Assistant Editor Debe Campbell contributed to this report.