Apr 27, 2020
Nonprofit groups on the Lower and Outer Cape are attempting to work collaboratively to help people experiencing financial and food insecurity because of the coronavirus.
Three times as many clients as normal are seeking food through the Lower Cape Outreach Council, according to CEO Larry Marsland. The organization feeds hundreds of families a week at eight locations.
Marsland said the current surge has broken all records he’s seen in his 18 years with the council.
“There’s a great need,” he said. “The 2008 recession was horrible, but this is worse because of the sickness and death associated with it.”
From April 6-10, 385 families received food at the council’s eight food pantries.
That same week, the council received 352 calls for assistance for everything from rent to food, utility payments, gasoline, car payments and insurance payments.
“We have 15 advocates who answer calls on the day they come in,” Marsland said.
The council is due to get approximately $50,000 in a loan through a small-business program, which Marsland hopes will become available to the organization this week.
Case managers at the Homeless Prevention Council work with anyone facing financial and housing hardships.
Executive Director Hadley Luddy said the nonprofit group has seen a 30% to 40% increase in requests for help in the past several weeks. They’ve gone from serving an average of 120 clients a month to 180 to 200 clients a month.
People have called needing financial assistance. They’ve also called with questions about the resources available and how to get them.
Many callers have never been in this situation before, Luddy said.
Case managers conduct a comprehensive analysis of their clients’ needs so they can connect them to a range of programs and services.
“We’re trying to get people to start at one place, to get the right information so they can access appropriate resources,” Luddy said.
Those resources include SNAP benefits, food pantry hours and locations, emergency short-term financial resources and other services for which they may be eligible.
Calls to the Community Development Partnership, which focuses on affordable housing and small-business assistance, increased after the shutdowns and emergency orders related to the coronavirus. The partnership runs a microloan program and provides technical support for those starting and growing businesses.
“All of that pivoted five weeks ago,” CEO Jay Coburn said, noting that clients have since been calling for help accessing the Payroll Protection Program and other strategies for surviving the shutdown.
The nonprofit group reported it has been working more closely with residents in need. In the past, residents were contacted once a year to recertify their income and sign leases.
“Now we’re checking in weekly,” Coburn said.
The partnership is collaborating with the Homeless Prevention Council to help clients access SNAP benefits, get reductions in Mass Health premiums and obtain referrals to food pantries.
“There are a whole host of different services available,” Coburn said.
The partnership is helping small-business owners access state and federal programs, including unemployment benefits. They also are advocating for their clients with elected officials to address loopholes in federal benefit programs, such as the Payroll Protection Program.
There’s a real problem on the Outer Cape for people who work a few jobs or for seasonal businesses that are open only in the summer, Coburn said.
Lower Cape towns will be eligible to apply for some of the $21 million in Community Development Block Grants the state is expected to receive shortly. Coburn said he expects some of that money to fuel small grants and loans for small businesses, but he doesn’t expect to see it for several weeks.
“Our big push is to encourage residents from Provincetown to Harwich to call and let us help them determine what they are eligible to sign up for,” Luddy said. “We know the services available and the process by which people have to apply for them. We can connect folks wherever they need to go.”
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