By Michael Hill
Laid-off Revel housekeeper Charoni Moreno came to Local 54’s help center at the Atlantic City Convention Center to apply for food stamps and health care. Moreno was the only one working in her family of four that’s about to become five.
“I just pray to god I’m going to be OK for this month for all my bills but I don’t know how I’m going to do for the next month,” she said.
Many of these laid off casino workers say they have no idea what their next step is so they’ve come here asking for any help they can get.
“Everything. I want to apply for food stamps, rent assistance, unemployment,” said Gertrudis Andujar.
Laid off Revel cook Andujar — a mother of two — wonders how they’ll make it in the long run.
“Wait for god to help us,” she said.
One 26-year veteran of Showboat and homeowner didn’t want to show her face while she applied for mortgage modification. Some banks are willing to suspend payments for three, six or up to 12 months for those without jobs. The banks would then tack those suspended payments on the back end of the loan and lower payments if a homeowner’s salary drops.
“Right now I’m not sure I’m going to be guaranteed a job. So in the meantime — between time — I just need to get the help while it’s here,” the homeowner said.
“I think it’s a great plan. It gives these people, who unfortunately were laid off, some breathing room,” said National Foundation for Debt Management Executive Director Russell Graves.
With the closures of Revel Resorts and Showboat this week, nearly 5,000 laid off workers are looking for jobs, including Ed Liu who was a tables game dealer at Showboat.
“What do you expect to find out there with all the other casino workers laid off? I’m thinking of changing fields because there’s nothing else here. What else can you do? I’m thinking about going back to school,” Liu said.
“I’m going to relax. I’m not going to stress myself. I’m not going to be in the hospital. You just got to pray about it. I don’t think I’m going to run around and find a job in Atlantic County. There’s going to be too many people doing it. I might end up going to Florida with my boyfriend. I don’t know,” said Monica Hunter.
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has a huge presence here and the commissioner says the goal is large.
“I don’t want to give just the temporary assistance, the unemployment insurance that all the folks have paid in to get. My biggest goal is getting people back to work as quick as possible. This is a re-employment. We’re not an unemployment office any more. We’re a re-employment office,” said Commissioner Hal Wirths.
Local 54 says as solemn and sobering as this help center is, this is beginning of a new Atlantic City.
“I believe we’re going to do a re-set. I believe Atlantic City is going to be more successful in the three years from now than it ever has been if we make the right decisions from here on in. So this is not a funeral. This is not an obituary. We’re not here to declare the death of the city. We’re here to begin the renewal of Atlantic City,” said Local 54 President Bob McDevitt.
This “AC Unites Here” resource center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from now to Sept. 10.