Emergency relief fund helps FDNY EMT who lost second job during pandemic
New York Daily News
NEW YORK – City EMT Naquavia Robinson was raising two sons and barely making a salary with a much needed boost from a second nanny job.
And then the pandemic struck.
Robinson’s daycare job evaporated and she quickly found herself in a financial crisis. Her car was repossessed for two missed payments, and she started falling behind on her electric bill and rent.
“I kind of depended on my second job to pay these bills,” she told the Daily News. “When I lost this job, I no longer had this backup. “
Desperate for help, Robinson, 29, turned not to FDNY or City Hall, but to an emergency relief fund set up by EMS colleagues and their unions at the following the 2017 murder of EMT Yadira Arroyo.
The fund, she said, helped her overcome the immediate crisis.
Robinson spoke to the Daily News the day before FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea and Port Authority chief met on Wednesday to honor medics, cops and firefighters. at Liberty Park. The 2020 National First Responders Day Tribute is sponsored by the First Responders Children’s Foundation.
“What struck me about (Robinson’s) story is that she is so familiar,” said Vincent Variale, president of Local 3621 of the Union of Uniformed EMS Officers. “EMS workers lose their second job and find themselves in a difficult situation. We appreciate the public’s gratitude, but I can’t go to the bank, clap my hands, and pay the mortgage. “
In 2019, there were approximately 1.8 million 911 calls to FDNY. More than 1.6 million were EMS calls, while only 200,000 were fire calls, Variale said.
Yet EMS paramedics and paramedics are paid far less than firefighters, cops, and even sanitation workers with the same level of experience. EMTs peak after five years at around $ 49,000, while other uniformed employees with five years earn almost $ 90,000.
Most EMS workers have some sort of second income just to cover daily expenses, and they don’t have unlimited sick days.
But for years, the city has failed to address these disparities. The EMS operated for three years without a contract.
“What they are saying is that the man who comes to collect your garbage is worth more than a year than the man who comes to save your life,” Variale said. “I think we should be treated better than that.”
Oren Barzilay, chief of Uniformed Paramedics Local 2507, points out that the pay gap results in high turnover. “Our members are leaving en masse,” he said. “With the pandemic, the risk is too high for such a low salary.”
A spokesperson for the FDNY said wages and sick leave are negotiated by unions through collective bargaining, not with the department.
The private nonprofit EMS FDNY aid fund evolved in the wake of EMT Arroyo’s murder as a sort of necessary solution to a situation the city had not resolved. Arroyo was fatally run over by a schizophrenic man who stole his ambulance.
“People wanted to help the family but we had no way to collect and distribute money, and it became a way to help members who have a catastrophic event,” Variale said.
Donations from companies like the New York Jets and Verizon have helped the fund grow and provide other services, like private mental health counseling and accommodation for quarantined members.
During the pandemic, Variale said, the need for funds has skyrocketed. Without any help from the city, around 30 members of the EMS have obtained funds this year.
Robinson lives in Amenia, NY – about 85 miles from the city – with his sons, ages 2 and 13. She had provided daycare to three families in the Bronx in addition to her EMS job for about two years.
The extra $ 500 per week bolstered her EMS salary by just $ 40,000 per year. But in early March, as the pandemic was biting, daycare work dried up.
“I fell behind on the rent, the car bill and the electricity,” said Robinson. “I had to use the savings for food and the little things my kids needed.”
The family limped into July and August, when the situation overwhelmed them, and then men seized her car, a 2019 Acura.
“I left my mother’s house to come home and the car was no longer there,” she said. “My things, my wallet, were in the car. All kinds of things were going on in my head. I couldn’t even locate him that night.
A colleague mentioned the aid fund. Robinson sent in a request and it was approved within weeks. “They paid my electric bill, about $ 1,300, and gave me $ 600 for various things and $ 2,300 to pay the rest of the rent,” she said.
The cash injection offered welcome relief from the crisis. “It meant a lot because it helped me live up to my bills and took a lot of weight off my shoulders,” she said.
But she never got the car back.
“There was nothing I could do,” she said. “They (the loan company) wanted too much money.”
(c) New York Daily News 2020