The Star-Herald

Grant funds to help ACAP continue serving families during pandemic

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Aroostook County Action Program has received $17,000 from the Maine Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund, all of which will go toward additional support for families as they navigate the pandemic.

Though COVID-19 cases in Aroostook County have remained among the lowest in Maine, the economic hardships caused by the pandemic have left many families without work and/or extra funds to spend on crucial items and services, Jamie Chandler, ACAP’s chief operating officer, said.

“Many of our programs work with families that have young children. Since the pandemic started we have served over 1,000 new families, over 700 of which have benefited from the state of Maine’s rental assistance program [that ACAP administers], Chandler said.

The Maine Community Foundation funds will go toward expenses that have come up as staff members from ACAP’s Head Start, Early Head Start, Child Care and Women, Infant, and Children programs, among others, seek to help families gain access to crucial services, assistance or basic needs that are now more challenging to fulfill.

Early in the pandemic, as ACAP began administering the rental assistance program, they encountered numerous families that went from having full-time, reliable employment to being laid off or temporarily unemployed due to the statewide lockdown. When ACAP coaches and program navigators followed up with those families, they realized how the sudden lack of income was affecting their lives.

“We were doing a lot of food deliveries at that time and also purchasing diapers and baby wipes,” Chandler said. “We also were able to help folks make their homes more safe for children, with baby gates, cupboard locks and door handle locks.”

Chandler said that ACAP employees will use the funds for any expenses that are not part of the programs’ yearly budgets.

Most recently, ACAP has been filling its Community Closet with winter coats, hats, gloves and mittens, especially those for children and hiring new staff members to coordinate the daily phone calls coming in from people inquiring about services. 

As more people reach out to ACAP for rental or winter heating assistance, family coaches have taken the opportunity to ask families what other immediate needs they have. Those questions have led coaches to realize that many of their newest clients never would have needed ACAP’s services before the pandemic.

“Many folks just didn’t know that certain programs existed because before they weren’t worried about putting food on the table or paying rent,” Chandler said. “Having the extra funds will allow us to continue helping more people seek financial assistance, education or workforce services.”

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