Economic mobility after pandemic job loss, thanks to cash assistance

May 11, 2022   |  By Emily Montgomery

Losing a job during the pandemic could have been a catastrophe for Shaun. But thanks to the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) program and our Returning Citizens Stimulus (RCS) cash assistance, this setback didn’t stop him from achieving economic mobility.

After battling addiction and receiving a felony conviction in 2019, Shaun was referred to CEO by his parole officer.

“CEO became a home to me,” he says.

“It really became a refuge for me. Trying to find a job with a felony conviction is very difficult. I would get jobs, and then I would get let go later because they would do the background check.”

Through the CEO program Shaun was referred to an employer who hired individuals with past convictions. By the start of 2020, he secured a job and moved out of a shelter into his own apartment.

Then COVID hit. The high-end restaurant laundry service where he was working laid him off, and “unemployment was taking weeks to get.”

Fortunately, the staff at CEO Denver told him about RCS, a first-of-its-kind initiative to distribute more than $24 million to over 10,000 formerly incarcerated people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shaun says CEO took care of all the paperwork and that the process was so easy he barely believed it when the money was deposited in his bank account.

“I thought it was a mistake at first,” Shaun says of the cash assistance. Even though he was a month behind on rent, Shaun’s conscience got the best of him, and he told CEO about the deposit. The office then informed him it was not an accident, and this money was for him to use how he needed it.

Thanks to the RCS, Shaun could keep paying his rent and stay in his home. With this stability came the ability to pursue more opportunities, and in March 2020, Shaun joined CEO as a program assistant.

Shaun emphasized that the RCS was important in helping him reach this milestone.

“I felt so blessed because it helped me pay my rent for three months,” he says. “It was enough money to help me stabilize myself.”