Rosie Allen-Herring is the president and CEO of United Way National Capital Area. (Courtesy of unitedwaynca.org)
By Rosie Allen-Herring
The impact of COVID-19 has deepened the economic hardship for residents in the DMV area. Prior to the pandemic, many residents were living paycheck to paycheck, but were not eligible for assistance because their household income did not fall below federal poverty guidelines. In fact, our recent ALICE (Asset, Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) reports show that 39 percent of the total population in Virginia and Maryland and 55 percent in D.C. are unable to afford basic household essentials in their communities. We know that after several months of business closures, layoffs, furloughs or reduced work hours, these numbers have increased with more residents finding it harder to afford the basic household necessities including housing, food, childcare, transportation, health care and a basic smartphone plan.
In October of each year, United Way of the National Capital Area is usually preparing for its flagship event: Project Homeless Connect. However, given this unprecedented time, it was imperative for us to pivot our flagship event to be accessible to more communities and include not only those at risk of or experiencing homelessness, but anyone impacted by COVID-19.
With our new charge in mind, we have renamed Project Homeless Connect to Project Community Connect. Instead of one day of programs and services at one location, Project Community Connect has become a weeklong series from Oct. 19 to Oct. 23.
During that time, United Way NCA worked with partners across the region to deliver hundreds of basic needs items throughout the week to the people they serve including food, winter clothing and hygiene kits. Additionally, virtual workshops covered budget-friendly meals, eviction and rental assistance, education resources, opportunities to save and manage bills or start a new career and health.
The issues of inequity in our systems for employment, education, health and food access, financial stability and opportunities for all to grow to the best of their abilities are not going to change unless we do the work. We are looking to partner with community members who are ready to join our efforts as we mobilize and make bold strides until we achieve equity for all of our community members, regardless of race, gender, income and ability.
Please reach out to Project Community Connect if you are in need of resources or services, or if you would like to give back to the community. For more information, please visit: www.UnitedWayNCA.org/PCC.
Rosie Allen-Herring is president and CEO of the United Way of the National Capital Area.
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