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F.I.S.H. sees uptick in financial aid requests due to red tide, algae

August 13, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva has been receiving an increase in requests for financial assistance for medical conditions and work-related issues tied to the ongoing water quality situation.

The non-profit organization reported that the water quality crisis is hurting the local economy and businesses that rely on the tourists and visitors who visit the area. With the area being heavily reliant on the tourism industry, it is not only an environmental disaster, it is an economic and human problem.

Restaurants and other businesses are closing early or closing until it clears, according to F.I.S.H. officials. Small, independent water sport and water excursion businesses that heavily rely on tourists are receiving cancellations in droves and are returning deposits. Hours are being cut and jobs lost.

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"What I haven't heard much of in the news is the additional stresses the red tide/green algae is placing on non-profits," President Maggi Feiner said. "F.I.S.H., as the islands only human social services agency, has already seen an influx of individuals seeking assistance due to job loss, cut hours and medical conditions. We've had folks come in requesting financial assistance for medical emergencies, such as skin irritation and respiratory problems, related to the environmental situation."

"Because of the fish kill and odor, tourists are leaving or not coming here at all and spending their money elsewhere, causing a reduction in hours or job loss for our workers," she said. "Our neighbors, those that live and work here, need help. There's no telling how long this will last; it's a dire situation."

Officials reported that F.I.S.H. is closely watching for funding opportunities to help offset the additional requests for its Emergency Financial Assistance Program. However, private donations are greatly appreciated and may be designated toward the Financial Assistance Red Tide Relief.

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"Funding for our Emergency Financial Assistance Program is made available through grants and private donors, but with it being so late in the year, most of those funds have been allocated," F.I.S.H. case manager Nitza Lopez said. "In the last few days, I've talked with island workers requesting a temporary hand up until they get more work hours. Some work in resorts, others are servers; all rely heavily on tourism and tips to get by."

"With predictions that red tide/green algae may last for some time, coupled with cancellations for the 2019 season, it's going to be tough for island employees for a number of months," she said.

Emergency financial assistance is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. F.I.S.H. determines eligibility for need-based financial assistance through an extensive review of income and expense documentation.

Amounts vary depending upon financial status and type of assistance requested.

For more information, contact Nitza Lopez at 239-472-4775.

The F.I.S.H. Walk-In Center is at 2430 Periwinkle Way, Suite B, Sanibel.



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