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Pan's Story

Pan Lai is a refugee from Myanmar and father of 3 who was working in Chicago at a Tyson Foods meat packaging plant in the spring of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Because of his status as an essential worker in the food industry, Mr. Lai continued to go to work in person at the plant every day and as a result, in April of 2020 he contracted COVID-19.

After testing positive for the virus, Mr. Lai needed to quarantine at home for two weeks– forcing him to miss critical work shifts – money that his family relied on to pay for their rent and other essential needs. Adding further pressure to the family’s situation, Mr. Lai’s wife, Par Te, was also laid off from her job at a sushi restaurant because of the pandemic. Unaware of any government assistance programs that could help them during this time, Mrs. Te reached out to CMAA’s Social Services Department for guidance during this challenging time for their family.

Allen Wong, an employee of CMAA’s Social Services Department, was able to ensure that the family was up to date on their current SNAP and Medicaid benefits; direct them to new pandemic resources; and help Mr. Lai and Mrs. Te understand their employment rights under COVID-19.

Specifically, Mr. Wong helped Mr. Lai apply for the City of Chicago’s housing assistance program, which was administered by CMAA, ultimately ensuring that Mr. Lai secured $1000 in rental assistance funds. Mr. Wong also assisted Mrs. Te in applying for unemployment benefits. Most importantly however, CMAA was able to assist Mr. Lai in communicating with his workplace to ensure that he would not lose his job while he was quarantining, and that he was eligible for paid sick leave due to new COVID-19 workplace protection laws - something Mr. Lai was unaware of before coming to CMAA.

Today, Mr. Lai is healthy and back to work at his job at Tyson Foods while Mrs. Le stays at home as the primary caregiver for their 3 children. We are proud to have helped support the Lai family during this critical time.

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