Well, one thing that’s certainly true about COVID-19 is that it loosens government purse strings – it makes local, state and federal governments a lot more likely to send money into the economy.

The federal government has been sending people checks. Guilford County government has been paying out grants to small businesses, and, on Wednesday, June 15, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced that the state’s Community Action Agencies have now received “flexible funds” that can be used to help low-income people and families meet a variety of needs caused by the economic disruption that came along with the pandemic.

The funds, which are part of a federal Community Services Block Grant, can be used to, among other things, pay rent and utility expenses for eligible residents facing eviction or termination of services.

One of the goals of governments at all levels in recent months has been to provide a “bridge” of economic support that allows businesses to stay open and allows people to remain in their homes.  

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said in a June 15 press release announcing the financial support that a primary focus of the new program is to bring down the number of evictions.

“With the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,“ Cohen stated, “the governor’s moratorium on evictions and utility shutoffs is the only thing keeping many families in safe and stable housing. This flexible funding will allow our Community Action Agencies to continue to meet a wide array of needs in our communities, including helping families remain in their homes when the moratorium is lifted.”

Community Action Agencies are nonprofit organizations that were created by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.

To be eligible for the benefits, people and families must be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Sharon Goodson, the executive director of the NC Community Action Association, stated that the program has a long history.

“Community Action Agencies have helped bridge gaps for low wealth residents and communities for 55 years,” she said. “They provide comprehensive services like case management, transportation, housing, employment, education, child care, eviction and emergency assistance programs to ensure low wealth residents increase and maintain their economic stability.”

Applications for the funding are being accepted by the local Community Action Agencies.