By Theresa Walker / Orange County Register
Originally published in Orange County Register.
O.C. United Way pandemic relief uses debit cards to keep at-risk families from homelessness.
A single mom raising three children, Ashley Mehr felt over the past year that she and her family were finally on solid footing after years of a nomadic existence, bouncing between family and friends.
Mehr, 30, completed her associate of arts degree in business administration last year, while pregnant with her youngest child, now 9 months old.
In August, she settled into a subsidized apartment in Huntington Beach with the baby and her other two children, 14 and 10. In October, she landed a job as an administrative assistant with the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance, a nonprofit that focuses on the well-being of Asians and Pacific Islanders in Orange County.
Then, two months ago, came the sucker punch.
The coronavirus pandemic knocked Mehr out of work as statewide stay-at-home orders put the economy into a coma. Furloughed from her job and initially rejected for unemployment assistance, Mehr scrambled to buy food, pay rent and utilities, and keep her infant in diapers — like thousands of other Orange County residents.
But then she got a $500 prepaid debit card from Orange County United Way. She used the money to make ends meet until her unemployment checks came through.
It may not seem like much, but Mehr said that $500 kept her family in their apartment.
“I don’t know what I would have done without it,” she said.
“Honestly, I didn’t have enough money for diapers and food.”
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