Bilal Chaney, 73, was told by doctors that contracting COVID-19 at his age would be a “death sentence.”
Chaney, who works as a program director of the radiology department at San Francisco General Hospital, decided not to risk it and took a leave of absence following a surgical procedure on his knee. He and his wife, Firoza, a stay-at-home mother, both have diabetes and chose to shelter in place.
But during the five months that he safely recovered at home, the bills piled up and Chaney was in serious debt with three-months worth of rent owed to his landlord. Without the help of The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund, Chaney and his family would have continued to rack up debt with no end in sight.
“At the beginning of 2020, we had no concept that our lives would change so drastically,” Chaney said. “But when shelter-in-place came, it meant that there was no more money.”
Though there was a statewide moratorium on rent and evictions, the rent for April, May and June added up, and Chaney worried about the large sum he would have to pay in a few months.
“There was the stress of worrying about whether you pay your rent or have money to put food on the table,” said Chaney, who also has two daughters living at home.
Chaney’s concerns were echoed by many families who did not want to struggle to come up with months of rent past the moratorium, said caseworker Tim Coltman of the Eviction Defense Collaborative.
As the only working person in the household, and with his disability insurance taking too long to process, Chaney appeared to have nowhere else to turn. He went on the San Francisco mayor’s website in search of aid and found assistance through The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund, which referred him to the Eviction Defense Collaborative. The Season of Sharing Fund is a foundation that works year-round to prevent homelessness and hunger in the nine counties of the Bay Area by providing donations directly to people in need.
“They were so kind at a time when you would really need somebody to be friendly and warm,” Chaney said. “I never felt like I was begging or that I was being disgraced because I needed a helping hand.”
Coltman said more people were in need this year as a result of the unprecedented mass layoffs during the pandemic.
“There’s quite a few organizations out there trying to help, but people probably still fall through the cracks,” Coltman said. “It’s just brutal right now with very few people working.”
The donation to Chaney’s family have allowed them to pay the rent they owed, and they are now working toward becoming economically stable again. His youngest daughter recently found a part-time job working at Whole Foods as she continues to attend City College of San Francisco virtually. She is interested in the ultrasound program. His oldest daughter graduated from San Francisco State this year. She works as a doula and hopes to attend graduate school for nursing and become a midwife.
Chaney’s knee surgery was a success, and he is back on his feet and back at the S.F. General Hospital radiology department, where he has worked for 28 years.
His duties have been scaled back significantly during the pandemic. Chaney was previously in charge of internships and volunteer work in the radiology department, but the program was suspended this year because of COVID-19.
His job now is to check-in with patients and remind them to visit the department to receive MRIs, ultrasounds and the like. It’s not face-to-face patient care, but it is safer for Chaney in the meantime.
With benefits lagging, retirement isn’t in the cards. Still, Chaney says he feels fortunate. “The job is just so wonderful. I can’t even think of leaving it, and I’m still quite healthy.”
Read the full article at: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Help-with-paying-off-bills-relieves-family-s-15786022.php
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