As the COVID-19 pandemic began closing restaurants, shops and other businesses in East Boston, East Boston Main Streets (EBMS) sprang into action to help employees that were guaranteed to face financial hardships.
Back on March 30 EBMS Director Gladys Oliveros said Main Streets and volunteers began a program to help local restaurants employees fill out their unemployment forms.
“But after we started, we found out that there were a large number of employees unable to qualify for Federal Aid because they were undocumented,” said Oliveros. “We contacted the City and we found support from the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and Food Access to help these vulnerable employees.”
On April 8, EBMS began handing out food Boxes outside its office on 154 Maverick St., using Maverick’s Restaurant’s outdoor dining area as a distribution site.
“However, right after we started with 180 meals we realized hair salons workers, barbers and other businesses were closing,” said Oliveros. “There were a growing number of employees without access to Federal help. In the second week we increased to 250 Food Boxes.”
By April 15 it wasn;t just out of work employees lining up for the food boxes but regular community residents were there in line waiting to pick up a food box.
“We saw the need in our community, we noticed that in Eastie, we had plenty of food access to kids and youth, but none to families and adults,” explained Oliveros.
So on Friday, April 17 Oliveros and EBMS had a meeting with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrants Advancement and several non-profit organizations from Eastie.
“We mentioned in this meeting that we needed more Food Access sites for families and adults,” she said.
With help from the Mayor’s Office and local nonprofits EBMS distributed 430 food boxes to small business employees and residents in need.
On Tuesday, in its fourth week of distribution, EBMS handed out 500 Food Boxes to employees and residents.
“We started to get help from East Boston Health Center; Piers Park Sailing Center, and East Boston Soup Kitchen,” said Oliveros. “If you’re a small business owner in East Boston please encourage your employees experiencing financial difficulty to take a Food Box from this program by East Boston Main Streets.”