The vast majority of people we connect with are walking on a tightrope with their finances. All it takes is one extra need such as a medical issue, loss of income or other crisis to throw them off balance.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, we knew that our clients would probably be facing devastating consequences, and therefore a mobilization plan was quickly implemented. This plan included applying for funds to help clients and seeking ways that we could safely distribute food to families through the Community Food Pantry.
We began this process by securing a grant to provide direct support to food pantry clients with children living in their homes. We were allowed to supplement the pantry food with a gift card to a grocery store for families with children under the age of 18. While we could not continue to offer a “choice” pantry during the pandemic, we modified our food distribution process so that we are now able to consistently provide significant quantities of food to households. We have earmarked funding to ensure clients with special dietary needs, including kashrut and gluten intolerance, have access to the foods they need.
The next step was for us to conduct a survey of food pantry and case management clients; discovering the highest areas of need to be job loss, rent/mortgage assistance and food insufficiency.
We focused on applying for grants that supported these areas of need.
Through grants from United Way and the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program (EFSP), we developed the Emergency Financial Assistance Program (EFAP). EFAP provides families with assistance related to housing, utilities, health care and food where there are financial challenges due to COVID-19.
Clients experiencing need are required to fill out an application form, which can be found at jfslv.org/emergency, to determine eligibility. Those without access to a computer may call the JFS office at 610-821-8722 and request a paper application to be mailed to them.
EFAP provides clients with a one-time grant to alleviate financial hardship brought on by COVID-19. Beyond financial support, we offer case management to individuals and families to help access additional resources and support.
The JFS vision is that “no one in our community should suffer hunger, isolation, abandonment, emotional or physical distress, or lack of community support and caring.” While we may not be able to fulfill all needs, our services can provide the opportunity for a person to take a deep breath and have some relief.
“The goal is to try and give some relief to families in a confidential and professional manner. We invite those who have suffered financially as a result of the virus to apply, knowing that our goal is always to be sensitive and caring,” said Debbie Zoller, executive director of JFS.
To apply for the EFAP, visit jfslv.org/emergency or call Rebecca Axelrod-Cooper at 610-821-8722.