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Social services announces COVID-related hardship relief

Social services announces COVID-related hardship relief

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As part of its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, Orange County has announced a new program through the department of social services (DSS) to assist citizens who have suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19.

Last week, Orange County Department of Social Services Director Crystal Hale announced her office had $100,000 as part of its CARES Act Fund Program that could be used as a last resort for those unable to meet utility and housing needs through existing DSS programs.

The program can assist citizens facing imminent electric, water and sewer cut-off, as well as assist with delinquent rent or mortgage payments to mitigate pending foreclosure or eviction, she said.

Hale said the program is designed to assist county citizens who’ve experienced a hardship directly related to the COVID-19 public health crisis. That could mean loss of employment, reduction of hours, or missing work to stay at home to take care of children because schools and daycares closed, she noted.

There is a $1,200 cap per household, and those applying for assistance must verify they are facing immediate cut-off, eviction or foreclosure, as well as validate the pandemic-related impact on income.

Applications are available on the DSS website, and citizens can call the Orange office to have an application mailed or emailed to them. Applications can be picked up at the Madison Road office, but Hale noted the preferred method is for citizens to access the application online to protect the health and safety of citizens and staff.

Hale said citizens seeking funds through the program do not need to have an existing relationship with DSS. However, she noted that DSS staff will consider any existing programs that may apply to citizens seeking assistance before allocating the emergency funds.

“We’re here to help our citizens whether they’re familiar with our services or not,” she said. “Our hope is we’ll be able to spend all this money.”

Hale said requirements for funding include Orange County residency, COVID-related hardship and an emergency need dating no further back than April 1.

In some cases, she noted, citizens may need to contribute a co-payment if the amount in question exceeds the $1,200 limit.

Hale said the funds are available at a critical time as the moratorium on COVID-related evictions is set to expire.

“I’ve been concerned about that for some time and have been trying to keep that on everyone’s radar,” she said. “Fortunately, the county administration and the board of supervisors were proactive and have made sure funds are available for this.”

The program officially opened last Tuesday, Sept. 1.

In two funding cycles, Orange County has received $6.4 million in CARES Act funding to support local government, businesses, individuals, families and community agencies and nonprofit organizations suffering amid the COVID-19 public health care crisis. All funds must be spent by Dec. 30, 2020, and must be directly related to the effects of COVID-19.

“This money is there to be spent,” she said. “We want to use it and help people.”

For more information about the CARES Act Fund Program through Orange County Social Services, call the main number at 672-1155 or visit its website at www.orangecountyva.gov.

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