Over a year after the COVID-19 shutdown, many are still feeling negative impacts due to job loss, hours cut, or the loss of a family member. Feeling a financial strain isn’t uncommon during the …
Over a year after the COVID-19 shutdown, many are still feeling negative impacts due to job loss, hours cut, or the loss of a family member. Feeling a financial strain isn’t uncommon during the pandemic, though it is extremely unwelcome.
“It’s been such a hard thing to figure out,” said Ecumenical Ministries South Baldwin Director Dana Jepsen. “There’s lots of people who are scared due to the feeling of isolation, and there are people who are scared because they’re not able to be isolated. There’s those who are overwhelmed with their jobs and added workloads, and others who are overwhelmed because they don’t have a job or income.”
Thankfully, programs have been formed to help with long-term recovery for those who have suffered financially due to the pandemic. One such group is Baldwin Together, a collaboration between VOAD, local chambers of commerce, EMA, the county commission, and others.
“Back in 2020, the county commission formed this working group,” Jepsen said. “They knew this pandemic was going to be a problem and their citizens were going to need help, and they asked what they could do to help them move forward. Baldwin Together was formed.”
Baldwin Together aims to help those left unemployed or with lost wages, businesses suffering from decreased revenue, and a social service system facing increased need.
“They’re doing rent and utility assistance and general case management for any households impacted,” said Jepsen. “That includes those impacted by lost jobs or hours, quarantine, the loss of a family member and lost income, or taking in an additional family member, we’ve had a lot of families moving in together because of lost jobs.”
Jepsen says another positive of Baldwin Together is case managers working with affected individuals to form a plan to move forward after financial instability.
Those having trouble paying their rent can find assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, launching April 1. Applications can be submitted through www.baldwinALtogether.org.
Another program for COVID-relief is the Community Action Agency of South Alabama, which has received CARES Act funding, allowing them to assist those impacted by COVID with rent or utilities. Jepsen said there are more requirements to qualify due to federal funding being involved, but there are more funds available.
For those feeling a mental strain, a mental help COVID crisis line has been developed by the Alabama Department of Mental Health, called AL Apart Together. Anyone in need can call 1-888-442-1793.
“And all social service agencies that generally assist in Baldwin County, including Ecumenical Ministries, Catholic Social Services, Family Promise, Prodisee Pantry, plus others, we’re all still doing what we’ve always done,” Jepsen said. “We’re operating as normal, assisting people as normal with food, rent, utilities, everything like that. We’re all working in collaboration with Baldwin Together, so we know if we have a client that is COVID impacted we make that referral to them because there are special dollars for that assistance. We’re able to communicate with those case managers and if the individual needs additional assistance, we’re here to pick that up.”
To contact Baldwin Together, you can call 521-424-1506, reach out to a case manager at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the office location at Prodisee Pantry, 9315 Spanish Fort Boulevard, Spanish Fort, AL 36527. Applications can be filled out online, by phone or in person.
To reach out to Community Action, call 251-626-2646 or visit the website at caaofsa.org to schedule an appointment online.
“I’m hoping coming out of this our community will be stronger, that’s what we’re working towards,” Jepsen said. “It’s been challenging for people who are right on the fringe, or even lots of people who thought they were fine, that had three or four months of savings and thought they were prepared for anything, but they weren’t prepared to be without a job for a year. There are people who have never been in that position who now are in that position. We want to make it as painless as possible for them to reach out for help. It’s very vulnerable, asking for help, but we’re as caring, compassionate, and thoughtful as we can be to help them through this.”