Human Services gives $170,000 in COVID-19 aid

Over the past month, Island County Human Services has fulfilled $170,000 in requests for residents impacted by COVID-19 requiring rental assistance and other needs.

During a town hall meeting last week hosted by Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson and Jackie Henderson, the county’s human services director, the two women discussed the CARES funding the county allocated to the Human Services Department.

“Every story has been different,” Henderson said during the meeting.

To illustrate the point, she gave an example of a fast-food worker needing assistance from the county’s services, because her hours were cut due to COVID-19 and she had two young children at home.

Henderson also pointed out that county staff has been helping people figure out how to file online unemployment claims on the state’s website.

“Navigating those systems can be daunting for people if they’re not used to working on a computer,” she said.

In an interview, Henderson said since June 18, Island County Human Services has financially helped around 300 people impacted by the effects of COVID-19.

Seventy-two of these people have needed help with paying rent and 19 with paying mortgages, but the majority have required the funds to meet essential needs, such as paying bills, buying groceries, meeting medical or transportation needs.

“People have been so incredibly grateful,” Henderson said. “People are very hesitant to take more than they actually need.”

Nearly $1 million was allocated from the county to human services, meaning there is still a copious amount of funds left over to help those in need.

As part of the $1 million, Henderson said applications were sent out to social service organizations affected by COVID to apply for up to a total of $10,000 in grants.

Henderson said starting a support group for parents may be a next step, because many of the phone calls staff has received have been from stressed parents.

The county’s human services page has many different hotlines for people to call, depending on their need.

For housing support or rent, mortgage or utility assistance, call 360-678-8284.

For mental health, accessing unemployment benefits, available food resources and other basic needs, call 360-678-2346.

For community education, such as support groups for seniors, parents and essential workers, call 360-678-8294.

People can also call 360-499-5552 if they need a referral for substance use, 360-499-5401 if they need support in developmental disabilities, 360-632-7328 if they need resources for veterans and 360-632-7054 for parenting support.

A one-page COVID-19 referral form for services can also be accessed on the website.

All programs are short-term and set to end Oct. 31.

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