ATLANTIC CITY — Since Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden Inc. launched the casino crisis team and the Atlantic City Casino Crisis Hotline last fall, about 200 individuals and 100 families have benefited from a total of $20,000 in direct cash assistance.

“And we’re busy trying to get our hands on some other dollars for assistance that would be significantly larger than $20,000,” said Kevin Hickey, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden.

Catholic Charities plans to apply to national organizations for more money to aid people still struggling after losing employment in the casino industry, he said.

The funding provides displaced workers with housing and utility assistance. The organization has distributed clothing and food to unemployed casino workers through the organization’s Casino Crisis Team. The Casino Crisis Team has six members, including staff from Catholic Charities’ main office in Camden and several branch offices throughout the region, Hickey said.

“We are treating this as a disaster. We are active with the same network of service agencies with whom we collaborated in the aftermath of (Hurricane) Sandy. It is a good example of nonprofits pivoting to turn their collective attention to the next crisis,” he said.

Nilda Martinez, a former dealer at Revel Casino-Hotel, said she has been living that crisis for nine months now. Martinez lost her unemployment benefits the first week of March and was about to lose electricity at her two-bedroom apartment in Galloway Township.

In April, Martinez landed a job as a part-time dealer two to three days per week at Golden Nugget, but the pay isn’t enough to cover all of her expenses.

Martinez found herself two months behind on her electricity bill after the end of a long, cold winter. She said she had never been late paying her bills until she lost her job. Her monthly electric bill averages about $175. That’s a lot of money when you don’t have work, she said.

“I was never late before. I mean, I don’t even know what color the envelope is when you have to hurry up and pay because you’re late,” she said.

And last month Martinez needed help to pay her rent of $975.

“It was very difficult to ask for help. I’ve never done this before in my life — it’s a rude awakening. I’m a very private person. I don’t like people knowing my business,” she said.

Catholic Charities stepped in to help, covering Martinez’s delinquent electric bill and May rent.

“Miss Jeanetta (Warren) from Catholic Charities was so nice and it was so quick. She made me feel like I’m not just a number. She actually cared. She made me feel like I wasn’t just another casino person without a job,” she said of Warren.

Warren, project coordinator for the Atlantic City Crisis Committee, said over the last month she noticed the calls on the hotline increasing, with as many as 10 to 20 calls each day.

The demand increased as approximately 2,000 former casino workers lost their unemployment benefits. Most of the calls came from people who were workers at Revel Casino Hotel and Showboat Casino Hotel.

Contact: 609-513-6686 DWeaver@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressWeaver

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