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Ashleigh was just starting out—then COVID hit.

January 5, 2022
Photo Credit: Woman holding her cat .

Ashleigh had recently finished a hospitality management training program and landed her first professional job with a local hotel. She was excited to take an important step in adulting. She was soon able to rent her first apartment. She was used to living with her large family, so she adopted a kitten to keep her company. Ashleigh enjoyed her new job, her new apartment, and Scooter - for about three months. 

Then COVID hit: Something no one saw coming. Like everyone else, Ashleigh was not prepared. 

Vacancy rates at the hotel soared. Travel bans and room cancellations resulted in staff layoffs, and recent hires were the first to be let go. 

Like many young adults, Ashleigh had little savings, and certainly not enough to cover rent without a job. She tried to get a roommate, but the pandemic made this impossible. Her father had also been laid off, so family help was out of the question. The bills piled up. Ashleigh soon found herself six months behind on rent and qualifying for very little in the way of public benefits. 

The American Rescue plan provided some relief, but it wasn't enough. For Ashleigh and thousands of others, United Way of Central Maryland helped tenants stay in their homes through the STEP (Strategic Targeted Eviction Prevention) program, which helps cover back rent for qualified people impacted by the pandemic. 

Without the threat of eviction looming over her, Ashleigh can focus on more important goals, like getting back into the workforce, catching up on bills, and having enough food for herself and Scooter. (Update: Ashleigh has two interviews coming up!) 

When she learned she qualified for the STEP program, Ashleigh stated, "This means everything to me - this is what hope feels like. With my parents already struggling, I couldn't burden them. It's a huge weight off my shoulders. And I think Scooter can sense my great relief!" 

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