How to get help, and give it
by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
From the March, 2020 issue
This list of resources responding to the Covid-19 pandemic was published in the April 2020 Ann Arbor Observer. Please add comments (button at end) to post updates and additional resources.
Help is available: If you face a shrinking paycheck, have been laid off from work because of the Covid-19 pandemic, or can't work because you need to care for sick family member, young children, or seniors, you may be eligible for extended unemployment benefits. Apply immediately by calling (866) 500-0017 or online at miwam.unemployment.state.mi.us. Claims must be filed by 11:59 p.m. April 14. No in-person applications will be accepted at unemployment insurance offices; they are closed to the public.
Talk to your bank immediately if you are concerned about cash flow. Ask about short-term loans, home equity loans, skip-a-payment options for mortgages, or other assistance programs they may offer.
If you rent, speak with your landlord and ask if you can pay part of your rent now and the rest later.
If you lose your housing, contact Housing Access for Washtenaw County: housingaccess.net or call (734) 961-1999 (Mon.-Fri. 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.). For food assistance, see Food Gatherers' list of distribution sites at foodgathers.org
DTE and Consumers Energy have suspended utility shutoffs for seniors and low-income families who are unable to pay their bills. Call (800) 477-4747.
SOS Community Services (734) 484-9945, and the Salvation Army (734) 668-8353, may be able to assist with utilities.
The United Way provides assistance and connections to local services. Visit
Comcast is offering low-income customers sixty days of free internet and is working on additional ways to help everyone stay connected. Phone: (800) 934-6489.
Ways to help: First, do all you can to slow
the spread of the virus. Wash your hands--frequently and thoroughly. Stay home if you can, and if you must go out, use the opportunity to help others.
"Stress levels are high, of course, and this certainly is uncharted territory, but I think the best way to handle the coming weeks (and, possibly, months) is to reach out and help someone who may be worse off," suggests Sandra Andrade, executive director of the business association Main Street Ann Arbor.
Andrade and many others suggest some creative, commonsense ways to reach out to neighbors without actual physical contact.
Don't panic at the grocery store or pharmacy. Don't hoard. If grocery inventories are low, pay extra attention to the pricing label before you drop that box of cereal, milk carton, or loaf of bread in your cart. If it says "WIC," the product is eligible for purchase for low-income women, infants, and children in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program. People who use WIC to feed their children can't switch to another brand or kind of food. If a store runs out of WIC options, these women go home empty-handed.
Take a casserole, batch of brownies, or jar of jam to an elderly neighbor or shut-in. But call in advance, and if you want to speak with them, step back at least six feet. Or keep a window between you as you speak by phone.
Advocate good health measures by sharing official messages regarding public health and safety to your friends and family, via social media, phone calls, or letters. The authority on the pandemic locally is the Washtenaw County Health Department: washtenaw.org
Find creative ways to volunteer in your community--rake someone's yard, paint a front door, weed a garden for a shut-in, share books and magazines, shop for someone you know, deliver prescriptions or doughnuts.
Fight isolation by using Skype or Facetime to visit with family and friends.
Volunteer to tutor children in your area of expertise (math, writing, history, social studies) by video chat. Or, if you don't feel qualified, read stories or demonstrate crafts. Help assemble and/or deliver meals to shut-ins and school children.
If you do go out, make sure to smile at everyone you see. Thank the overworked clerks in stores you visit, send notes of thanks and appreciation to first responders, health care workers, and others helping your community.
Ways to contribute:Many local organizations are stretched to their limits in an effort to meet the huge and escalating demand for services. These nonprofit agencies have all announced that 100 percent of all donations will be used to "meet the needs of the vulnerable populations, including those needing food, helping children, and serving families facing loss of income due to business closures, health issues, and housing crises."
Donations, contributions, and volunteer hours would be greatly appreciated for:
The American Red Cross has a severe blood shortage, since more than 220 of its upcoming blood drives have been canceled in Michigan alone. Healthy individuals are desperately needed to help critically ill patients. The Red Cross assures donors that this is "a safe process and we have implemented additional precautions to ensure blood drives and donation centers are even safer for our donors and staff." 4624 Packard St. RedCross.org. (800) RED-CROSS.
The United Way of Washtenaw County launched its Covid-19 Community Relief Fund in early March and within two weeks had reached $150,000 of its $1 million goal. To donate, visit uwgive.org. United Way also welcomes calls from volunteers offering their time, funds, and donations: (734) 971-8200.
SOS Community Service operates a food pantry and offers families transportation, help with utilities, personal care items, and housing resources: (734) 484-9945.
Community Action Network's Bryant Community Center Market offers weekly food distributions to all county residents Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Families will line up at the door for bags of food; they won't come in the building. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food Gatherers. Their network of food pantries and meal programs responded immediately to the crisis, including the Community Kitchen at the Delonis Center homeless shelter. A recent press release noted, "In everything we do, Food Gatherers is following infection control practices and CDC guidelines to avoid service contamination." They are working closely with school districts to develop delivery and distribution systems. Local Rotary clubs offer to match contributions of $25 or more--and that $50 will provide enough food for 150 meals. Volunteers support all operations. See www.foodgatherers.org
Hope Clinic needs help stocking, organizing, cleaning, preparing and distributing meals-to-go every night but Wednesdays and Fridays. For volunteer and donation information, see thehopeclinic.org
The Humane Society of Huron Valley. As family budgets grow distressingly tight, many will be forced to give up their pets because they can no longer afford them. The HSHV always welcomes donations of food and treats for dogs and cats, as well as financial contributions and volunteer time spent with the pets. They also celebrate each pet adoption. See hshv.org
Washtenaw County Salvation Army has temporarily closed its Family Thrift Store locations and is focusing on providing food, manning Bed & Bread trucks and kitchens. See https:
Ann Arbor Community Center "is focusing on supporting urgent needs during the COVID-19 situation." Phone: (734) 662-3128.
SafeHouse Center provides shelter for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, as well as counseling, legal advocacy, and support groups. Phone: (734) 995-5444.
Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels is continuing its regular operations, but with extra precautions. It is working to create shelf-stable and frozen meals in case the organization needs to close--"although that would be a last resort." Call (734) 998-6686 or email email@example.com.
Please use the "comment" button to provide information on additional services, or updates to the services listed. The information will be added below as quickly as possible.
Jewish Family Service (734-769-0209, jfsannarbor.org) is offering telephone reassurance to all seniors who need it (email firstname.lastname@example.org) and making deliveries from its specialty food pantry (halal, kosher, gluten-free; choose prompt # 6 at main number, or use https:
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