In March, former 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang’s nonprofit Humanity Forward announced it was was distributing $1 million in $1,000 cash payments to 1,000 working households in the Bronx.
Among the recipients was Ramona Ferreyra of the Mitchel Houses in the south Bronx. Ferreyra, 39, is a community activist and small business owner. From sourcing masks for essential workers to bringing medicine to sick neighbors, she has used her skills as a community organizer to help everyone around her ride out the COVID-19 crisis.
Ferreyra told the Bronx Times she donated $15 to Yang and knew of his plan to help people, but when she received the news that she was selected she could not believe it.
“The day I got the text from Neighborhood Trust I was like, ‘what is this?’” she recalled. “I remember sitting there crying.”
While she used to work for the FBI and Department of Defense, she relocated back to the Bronx to take care of her grandmother, Carmen, 89. They live together in a one-bedroom apartment, but her chronic health issues have made it difficult to work in most traditional jobs. Most of their income comes from sales from her clothing business, Ojala Threads, which sells baby and children’s clothes inspired by her Hispanic heritage and some governmental support.
But with the COVID-19 crisis, her sales have dropped dramatically and she had to cancel all of her pop-up events. Their food stamps ran out weeks ago, and their situation was beginning to feel dire.
With direct support from Humanity Forward through a partnership between Neighborhood Trust and SaverLife, Ferreyra received a $1,000 payment to help her feel a little more secure.
“[The payment] was life-changing,” Ferreyra said.
Ferreyra used some of the funds to make two credit card payments, bought $100 in stocks, a new can opener and mop for her grandma, supplies for her dog and put investments in her company.
“At a time like this, when we have lost three neighbors just in this building…I am already so emotionally exhausted that with the added weight of being poor, there was a time that I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through this because of the financial pressure,” she said. “And that $1,000, for someone who is used to living on $190 a month — that will last me like three months. For me, this is like a quarterly investment. Look at everything I can accomplish with that money.”
Since receiving the financial assistance, her company has drastically improved. Normally she does the majority of her business through pop ups, but recently it is 100 percent online. Also, Ferreyra purchased Google ads, which has increased traffic, going from five to 10 page views a day and now 25 to 50.
“I’m confident that it [the money] will make a difference,” she stressed. “It basically gave me the freedom to choose where I was going to put my energy and that choice was priceless.”