Oklahoma Member Finds Union Plus Disaster Relief Grant is Rooted in Solidarity
The oddly shaped Bradford pear tree rooted firmly in Christabel Elliott’s backyard serves as a reminder of the lives that were lost and destroyed when a series of tornadoes ripped through the Oklahoma City area (most severely in Moore, Okla.) last May.
The 20-year-old tree, which gave up half its branches in the storm, also prompts Elliott – a member of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), Local 2562 – to recall that strong union roots can provide much needed financial support through the Union Plus Disaster Relief Grant, when natural disasters tear through the landscape of everyday life.
Life in tornado valley
As a life-long resident of “Tornado Alley,” Elliott has seen her share of tornadoes over the years, but witnessing the devastation after a storm never gets easier.
Fortunately, she was one of the lucky ones in this most recent storm. Her home remained intact, she was never displaced, and, most importantly, she and her loved ones – including beloved pets – were safe. “I’m originally from Kansas, so tornadoes are not uncommon. But this was, by far, the worst tornado that I have experienced. My heart goes out to all the families who lost members of their family,” Elliott says.
Considering the many lives that were lost and homes that were flattened, Elliott considered her problems trivial: a toppled tree, a downed fence, a freezer full of spoiled food and a yard full of debris. Still, there were challenges that could not be ignored. To save on the costs, Elliott rolled up her sleeves and hauled away trash herself, while a handyman sawed branches from the tree and fixed the fence. Despite the elbow grease used, Elliott still found herself with a bill of more than $350.
A welcome wave of relief
Just when she was about to tap into her homeowner’s insurance, Elliott, a Veterans Administration vocational rehabilitation specialist, spotted an email from her union promoting the availability of Union Plus Disaster Relief Grants. To deal with the cost of tree services and massive yard clean up, Elliott applied for – and received – a one-time $500 Union Plus Disaster Relief Grant, which need not ever be repaid.
The Union Plus Disaster Relief Grant program was devised to provide quick help to eligible union members who have a Union Plus Credit Card, Mortgage, Life or Accidental Death Insurance policy and are dealing with the financial impact of FEMA-declared natural disasters and emergencies.
"A wonderful program" just for union members
After enduring such a harrowing experience, the $500 Elliott received from Union Plus brought a welcome wave of relief. “I think this is a wonderful program and it is just another example of why I believe so strongly in unions. Unions really are the backbone that strengthens middle-class families. Grants, like those offered by Union Plus, show that it pays in so many ways to be a union member,” says Elliott, who has carried an AFGE Union Plus Credit Card for about five years.
The Union Plus Credit Card program provides competitive interest rates, U.S.-based customer service, and unique hardship benefits1 to eligible cardholders after three months, including disability grants ($1,600 to $2,700), hospital grants ($1,200) and job loss grants ($300).
Also available to eligible active and retired union members is the Union Plus Mortgage program, which provides a range of assistance programs. These include interest-free loans and grants to help you make mortgage payments if you become disabled or unemployed. Over the life of the Union Plus Mortgage assistance program, more than $10.5 million in assistance has been provided to union members.
At UnionPlus.org you can learn more about these programs as well as special services that are available to union members and retirees. You too can discover how union membership, like Elliott’s beloved, old pear tree, bears fruit – often when it is needed most.
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