Friday, April 3rd, 2020
Grant will help those affected by virus
By William Kincaid
CELINA - Help is coming for people needing emergency shelter or struggling with rent, mortgage and utility payments because of setbacks triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Federal and state funds have been repurposed to meet the pressing needs of those adversely affected by the unprecedented outbreak rampaging across the nation.
Antipoverty agency West Ohio Community Action Partnership, serving Allen, Mercer and Auglaize counties, received emergency dollars from at least three new sources. The money will be available in coming days or weeks.
Mercer County has been tapped to administer nearly $30,000 in state funds to help provide emergency shelter.
County commissioners this week moved to accept $27,600 in Community Development Block Grant funds that will be administered by the county community development office and funneled to WOCAP.
"It's the state reshuffling some money from some of their pots to put toward things they believe are important," county community development director Jared Ebbing said. "With everything going on with COVID, there might be some people that need shelter due to increased distancing."
The funds, per state documents, can be spent on shelter operations, including staff support, supplies, motel/hotel vouchers or other housing options to reduce shelter concentration to bring about greater physical distance between residents.
"If somebody says, 'Hey, I need to be in a hotel for three days because my family has COVID-19,' this kind of supplemental money coming from CDBG will help that, and then WOCAP can deal with those folks," Ebbing told the newspaper. "We're basically the grant administrator."
The funds will help with rent assistance and homeless services for the three-county area, WOCAP Executive Director Jackie Fox said.
"For example, this money can be used to help shelters rearrange their spaces so they can spread out some of the people that are in the shelter now," she said. "Additionally, if a Samaritan house needs to put somebody up in a hotel to increase that social distancing, that money will be available as well."
Those with roofs over their heads may also be eligible for assistance.
"That will also help people who need their rent paid and they're not homeless, but they need it because they had a loss of income," Fox said. "We're actually ramping up in serving people."
WOCAP also has lined up additional funding sources for help during the pandemic, among them a Community Services Block Grant freed up through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act signed into law last Friday by President Donald Trump.
"We've already gotten an increase in phone calls for utility assistance, and that's great because they extended winter crisis (program) until the end of April," she said, adding she doesn't know yet how much is coming WOCAP's way. "It's significant because CSBG was awarded $1 billion for the United States. That'll be at 200% poverty."
That means more people will be able to apply for help.
"We're going to be able to help people that typically don't need our services," she said, pointing to people who were recently laid off.
These funds, Fox said, could be used to meet the big three needs of families - rent, mortgage and utility payments.
"Those are the big three things because it's a big hit, if you're looking at rent at $650 or $750 a month. We can significantly help a family by helping them until they get back on their feet," she said.
WOCAP, though, still needs to finalize a plan and apply for the release of funds.
WOCAP is largely carrying out its work during the pandemic via telephone and website in accordance with social distancing guidelines. She urges anyone in the three counties needing emergency services to fill out an online form at wocap.org/request-for-emergency-services/.