The Star-Herald

Organizations unite to fill gaps for local families

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — When a gap in services was realized, three local organizations pulled together to help serve families throughout Aroostook County. 

“At United Way of Aroostook, we are always looking for gaps in our communities and thinking of ways we can step in to help fill those gaps. Working with ACAP, we were able to determine there was a population of people being seriously impacted by COVID-19 who were unable to find assistance to help them as they struggled to pay their utilities. We knew this was a gap we could help fill and were happy to step in to make sure these individuals were not forgotten,” said Sarah Ennis, executive director, United Way of Aroostook. 

As households continue to struggle with the impacts of COVID-19, programs and services have become available to help ease that burden for many. Programs such as increased SNAP benefits, access to technology and rental assistance are just three examples. 

Ennis said front-line service providers realized there were limited resources for local homeowners who had been impacted by the pandemic. When the challenge was identified, a collaboration was born between Aroostook County Action Program, United Way and Machias Savings Bank. The bank donated $5,000 to help homeowners with past due utilities, and the United Way matched that donation.

ACAP has been and will continue to administer these funds until they are depleted. 

“As a bank, we have seen the far-ranging financial impacts of the pandemic, not only on businesses, but on individuals. We have worked tirelessly to lessen those impacts in a myriad of ways, including awarding more than $300,000 to nonprofits throughout Maine to assist their efforts to help feed folks, purchase personal protective equipment for frontline workers and first responders, and make improvements to their operations to slow the spread of COVID-19 while they continue to focus on those they serve,” said Tim Goff, AVP, Presque Isle Machias Savings branch manager. 

“This donation, targeting homeowners who have had less options and resources made available to help them through these difficult times, is another way we can step up and fill a critical need, helping to move Maine forward so we can all get through this together safely and securely,” Goff said.

The coaching team at ACAP oversees this new initiative and works closely with households to connect them to all of the programs and services they may qualify for. The donation dollars are used as a fund of last resort and can assist with up to $500 per household with past due utilities. The goal is to assist the individual or family to be able to safely remain in their home. 

Homeowners are encouraged to work with their financial institution regarding monthly mortgage payments. 

To date, the program has served 14 households who have been impacted financially by the virus and are behind on utility payments. These households are scattered throughout Aroostook County and include families with young children, adults over the age of 70 and many households that were temporally unemployed. 

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