Just hours after the Make Ends Meet Fund was in place Wednesday an anonymous donor issued a $2,500 gift to unemployed substitute school teacher Jamie Austera and her 17 -year old daughter Hope.
“Oh my God, “ a stunned Jamie Austera said about the gift. ”That’s enough to pay my rent for almost 3 months.”
Her daughter Hope, a high school student in Osceola County, could barely say anything as she sobbed tears of joy.
“It’s just incredible," she cried. “I’m sorry I’m trying to keep it together, this will help us for weeks, months.”
Austera’s fight to get unemployment benefits received a final blow Thursday morning when she was formally advised she was not eligible for state jobless benefits because she had not paid enough into the system.
“When I first moved here I was doing Uber and Lyft,” she said. “We didn’t pay into unemployment.”
As a 1099 independent contractor she did pay taxes so she is eligible for the federal unemployment benefits under the CARES Act, known as pandemic unemployment assistance, or PUA.
It took nearly 3 months for her to finally get an answer from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity about the status of her application.
“I just applied this morning so who knows,” she said of the federal benefits. “My other applications took a month each.”
Austera started her teaching position with Osceola County in December. She said during spring break the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to shut down indefinitely and she’s never been called back.
Her story prompted an outpouring of support from News 6 viewers including a full time teacher in the Osceola school district who wrote: “I felt so bad for my fellow co-worker, I would like to donate $100 to her.”
Austera was touched by the kindness from the community and promised to follow their lead.
“We really appreciate it, she said, “we will not forget it and definitely pay it forward when we can.”
News 6 and Addition Financial have created a fund designated for families struggling due to the pandemic.
If you would like to help a family email Mike Holfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name, address and phone number.