Life is full of surprises and when a medical emergency occurs, bills can pile up more than expected. For those in need, nonprofit organization Bloom Again helps the Pasadena community and beyond regain their footing.
BY: SARA SMOLA
A health care emergency can be frightening, even more frightening, perhaps, is the cost. While insurance may help, the resulting bill is likely to make you ill, and potentially clean out your bank account.
If you’ve had the foresight to accumulate funds for emergencies, you are one of the prudent and fortunate. Sadly, too many members of the community aren’t able to handle the additional financial burden that comes with obtaining basic needs and paying, not just the direct health care costs, but the hidden expenses generated during their recovery process.
For those barely able to make ends meet, an unexpended expense like health care and unpaid sick leave can have devastating results. Single moms or female breadwinners can be particularly vulnerable. The additional expense of health care has left many women and their families facing homelessness due to an unfortunate health emergency that could have happened to anyone.
That’s where Pasadena nonprofit organization Bloom Again steps in. Bloom Again works with women to provide monetary assistance in times of need. Breast cancer survivor Dr. Lois Frankel founded Bloom Again about eight years ago, with the mission, according to Bloom Again Executive Director Eleanor Beasley, “to help working women [and] families living in poverty who’ve had a medical emergency and [provide] financial assistance with rent, with their lease, transportation and food. Our population truly is living paycheck to paycheck and many have jobs where they aren’t getting paid for sick time.”
With an average gift of about $1,800, Bloom Again is helping working women get back on their feet. In just the first four years, Bloom Again has funded $244,000 to women in need, from Santa Barbara to Orange County and inland to San Bernardino.
But take note, it’s not a welfare program or a free handout (Bloom Again calls it a “hand up”), and women must meet certain requirements to qualify for funding (which can be used for in-home health care, transportation, transitional living, living expenses such as rent and utilities, and groceries). The main requirements are that the household income must be under $30,000, the woman in question must have been working before her medical emergency and the medical emergency must be recent (within 90 days). This is usually a last resort for women who’ve already approached other organizations for assistance. Beasley is quick to emphasize the critical nature of the problems the women face, “We’re filling a gap. We explain that by saying ‘I had income a month ago and I will have income again but because of this medical situation I need some help’ so we help during that gap period. There’s not a lot of resources for that gap period; there’s short term disability that kicks in after a period of time and long term solutions but [in terms of] that gap when people really need the help, we’re not really finding a lot of competition. When people come to us, we’re like a last resort. Many of our requests…it’s like, ‘We’re going to get evicted if I don’t pay my rent next week.’”
It’s the bleak reality that goes much deeper than paying solely for medical expenses—Bloom Again also covers the costs associated with the medical emergency that many are all too blissfully unaware of…unaware that is, until you’re in that same situation. Beasley explains, “If you’re not in this [situation], you make a lot of assumptions, like if you need to get chemotherapy, you just either take the bus or somebody will drop you off but through our relationship with Santa Barbara Cancer Center, we have helped women where they’ve had to drive 80 miles in one direction to go get their chemo. That’s why we’ve started assisting with transportation because that’s another financial burden. Even if you can pay your rent, buy your food and pay your utilities, money for a 160 round trip—that’s a lot of money over a period of time. It’s those hidden costs that people don’t really think about that Bloom Again will step in and assist with.”