York County COVID-19 fund finances new rental assistance program

Ioannis Pashakis//May 15, 2020

York County COVID-19 fund finances new rental assistance program

Ioannis Pashakis//May 15, 2020

Two York County nonprofits received $56,000 grants to help families stay in their homes as they face the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

The York County COVID-19 Response Fund, a grant program organized by the York County Community Foundation (YCCF) and the United Way of York County, announced its second round of grants this week.

For the latest awards, YCCF and the United Way focused on funding educational resources for York County residents that could be facing eviction from their homes because of a loss of income related to the pandemic.

The Community Progress Council, and New Hope Ministries, two nonprofits that provide services for low to moderate income individuals to help them become self-sufficient and PA 211, a local nonprofit helpline, will use the grants to give area residents education on how they can prevent future financial struggles, courses on crisis budgeting and rental assistance.

The fund previously awarded $186,000 of grant funding to nonprofits in the county that were working together to meet the increased demand for food due to the pandemic.

The fund’s second rollout of awards provided its own set of challenges, since the first grantees were already working as a unit to solve the issue of food insecurity in the county. YCCF and the United Way had to build the program with the help of local nonprofits for the second awards.

“We had to pull together a brand new group that hadn’t already been working together for two years,” said Lise Levin, vice president of community investment at YCCF.

Using the grant funding, the grantees plan to release educational resources to community members regarding the eviction moratorium and other housing issues. Individuals in need of further assistance will be able to enroll in budgeting courses on subjects like contacting landlords and financial stability steps to take during the crisis and recovery.

Households that complete these courses could then be eligible for rental assistance.

Levin said the money currently available for housing and rental assistance is limited to people in poverty. The new program would allow the nonprofits to expand efforts to help those in need of assistance after losing work.

“One of the focuses of the funding across the board with this, is ‘how do we continue to help people who live in poverty, but then also help the people who have never had to use food pantries and aren’t eligible for residential assistance in the current funding streams,’” she said.

Prior to the pandemic, the United Way of York County published its Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) report. The report found that 32% of the county’s households were living paycheck to paycheck, said Anne Druck, president of the United Way of York County.

Druck said she expects that those numbers have grown exponentially alongside growing unemployment numbers in the county, which rose from 4.4% to 5.0% from February to March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

YCCF and the United Way raised more than $970,000 for the York County COVID-19 Response Fund and will be looking for additional efforts to fund in the coming months.

Jane Conover, president and CEO of YCCF, said that the funds will be used not only for immediate support for York County residents but will allow area nonprofits to offer help into recovery.

“We will be soliciting additional grants in May around food and we will be learning more about the housing needs as they evolve,” she said. “One of the beautiful things about the fund is that it is adaptable and we want to make sure that we are here for the midterm and the long term.”