EMPath: Maintaining Focus on Economic Mobility in Crisis Mode

EMPath knows that living in poverty is a high-stress situation that makes long-term planning hard. COVID-19 has amped up the stress, so EMPath has ramped up its remote mentoring capabilities.

April 21, 2020

Alice, a resident at a shelter in Boston, is one of the almost 12,000 education workers in Massachusetts who lost their jobs when schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The goals she had created—including saving money—might easily have fallen by the wayside if she was not able to continue working with her mentor.

EMPath logo
Alice is a program participant of Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath). EMPath has a long history of serving low-income families in Greater Boston. EMPath’s Mobility Mentoring® program is the cornerstone of its work, which supports participants in setting and achieving goals to obtain economic self-sufficiency. The organization is grounded in the understanding that living in poverty causes a great deal of stress and trauma, and that toxic stress has distinct impacts on the brain’s ability to envision and adhere to long-term plans.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, EMPath’s participants have been feeling greater effects of the social and economic fallout than most, and stress for many is skyrocketing. An overwhelming majority of EMPath participants are losing jobs, putting job searches on hold and worrying about covering basic needs. EMPath is continuing the essential work for residents in its shelters, keeping facilities open and staffed. Shelter mentors have increased their sanitation policies to protect the health and safety of the families in residence and themselves. All other program mentors work from home, connecting with participants via phone and video calls. Participants receive Mobility Mentoring even through these obstacles.

Alice continues to have weekly phone calls with her mentor and also with EMPath’s financial specialist. With this support, she has been able to keep her goals in sight. She consistently makes deposits in her savings account, which will be matched by EMPath. EMPath’s mentors are prepared to continue working alongside participants from whatever distance is necessary, as the impacts of this crisis are vast and will certainly be felt for months or years to come.

While Economic Mobility Pathways has gone by the name of EMPath for 10 years, it has its roots in two 19th century woman-serving organizations, so helping families through historic challenges--even pandemics--is in its DNA.

Given today’s extraordinary circumstances, EMPath had to cancel its annual Economic Independence Day fundraiser in May. “While the fundraiser has been canceled, our work continues and is more important than ever,” says Nicki Ruiz de Luzuriaga, EMPath’s Vice President of Institutional Advancement. “There are many new challenges facing our participants, but they continue setting and achieving goals and making strides toward economic independence.”          


This is one in a series of stories about grantees of the Boston Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund. These Greater Boston nonprofits are on the front-lines of our community's response to this crisis. While we are all struggling to cope with the hardships of the coronavirus, these organizations, their leaders and their staff are serving the most vulnerable among us. Boston Indicators the Boston Foundation’s Research Center, is providing valuable data and analysis for these stories. Visit tbf.org for more on the COVID-19 Response Fund.