When COVID-19 hit his family in two waves, resulting in extended quarantines and straining the family budget, Matthew Ely needed help and he needed it fast. He turned to United Way of Greater Cincinnati, entrusted by Hamilton County to build a system of care around people impacted by COVID-19.
Ely’s Mount Washington family includes six children – with five teenagers – and food is the most expensive monthly budget item. Ely missed work four out of six weeks and was unsure how to make ends meet. United Way, uniquely positioned to develop an innovative CARES Coordination Program because of its relationship with 140 partner agencies, stepped in to help.
“COVID hit our home in an exceptionally hard way,” Ely said. “I cannot begin to express my gratitude, as help with food has been a huge blessing for us.”
Hamilton County’s Board of Commissioners designated $1 million for the CARES Coordination Program, which runs through Dec. 30, because the pandemic is much more than a health crisis. While COVID-19 patients can receive treatment for the virus, they also needed help with other urgent needs.
For people exposed to or diagnosed with COVID, the CARES Coordination Program delivers meal kits and health kits directly to their homes. The health kit includes supplies needed to quarantine safely, such as masks, thermometers and gloves. In addition, the program connects people to a network of agencies providing wrap-around services, such as:
- Electric and power shutoff prevention
- Employment support
- Mental health support
- Rent, mortgage and water bill assistance. Coordinators assist eligible Hamilton County residents with applications for Ohio’s Home Relief Program, available through a referral partner, Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency.
People can request assistance from United Way’s CARES Coordination Program by calling the United Way 211 helpline or by texting 211CARES to 51555. Some people are referred to the program after testing positive for COVID at a Test and Protect site. Health department contact tracers also direct people to the program.
In all, Hamilton County received $142 million in CARES Act funding from the federal government. United Way previously announced it has a contract with the county to administer the Hamilton County Youth Services Relief Fund, which consists of $1 million in CARES Act funding to provide financial relief to nonprofits and recreation commissions that support Hamilton County youth affected by COVID-19.