REUTERS / Mike Blake - stock.adobe.com
Grants from Acumen America bring food, rent, and utilities assistance to Kansas City and Topeka.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown a light on the critical role of social supports and services. Since the onset of the outbreak, many families have experienced job losses and face difficulties with food and housing. To help provide relief and support, Healthify recently announced the distribution of grants to several community-based organizations (CBOs) to address food and housing insecurity in Kansas City and Topeka, Kansas.
With support from Acumen America, Healthify is partnering with local organizations and transportation companies to provide food, rent, and utilities support for vulnerable residents in Kansas City and Topeka. Healthify will distribute funds to support CBOs and deploy the infrastructure to coordinate contactless food delivery as well as rent and utility vouchers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated social needs and is shining a light on the role social services play in addressing the overall health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations,” said Cesar Herrera, Chief Solutions Officer at Healthify. “There is a clear link between social disparities and health outcomes, yet in many communities, the infrastructure does not exist to integrate healthcare with social services. We are proud to play a leading role in directing targeted interventions to help people in Kansas City and Topeka.”
“People living in low-income communities face a number of socioeconomic and health factors that put them at increased risk for infections and complications from the disease,” said Amon Anderson, Director at Acumen. “As the damage from the pandemic rages on, it’s critical that we act quickly to meet the urgent needs of these vulnerable communities, and to support recovery and resilience.”
Contactless food delivery in Kansas City
Before the onset of the pandemic, many Kansas City food suppliers and food banks were not set up to implement a contactless delivery model. Now required because of social distancing requirements and stay-at-home mandates in response to the pandemic, many CBOs are looking to transition to a delivery model that follows safety guidelines.
“The pandemic completely changed our approach to meals. Deliveries have increased by 85%, mainly among vulnerable adults who are self-isolating or have seen other food access pathways blocked by the pandemic,” said James Stowe, Director of Aging and Adult Services at Mid-America Regional Council.
The funding from Acumen American will be distributed by Healthify to three CBOs: Food Equality Initiative, Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, and Mid-America Regional Council. These organizations will coordinate the distribution of food through contactless deliveries to households in need via Ride Health and other transportation providers.
Rent and utilities support in Topeka
Overall, Kansas has been greatly impacted by COVID-19. The state’s unemployment rate hit 11.2% in April. Job loss and underemployment are undoubtedly going to affect the state’s renter population.
Princeton University’s Eviction Lab — which has been evaluating states’ eviction and housing policies during COVID-19 — gave Kansas a poor score for the state’s 871,031 renters. Kansas limited eviction filings during the pandemic, but the state’s housing protections were set to expire on May 31.
In Shawnee County — where Topeka is located — the number of extremely low-income (ELI) or very low-income (VLI) households includes more than 11,000 families. Of those, 64% of ELI and 22% of VLI households are severely cost-burdened, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Housing Instability and COVID-19 Map. As eviction protections expire amid a high unemployment rate, many Topeka families need financial assistance to afford rent and pay utility bills.
“Dealing with housing instability can put people at risk for poorer physical and mental health outcomes,” said Tawny Stottlemire, Executive Director at Community Action. “This funding will help ensure we can help our community neighbors have the resources to pay rent and utilities so they can stay safe and secure in their homes.”
The funding will support rent and utility vouchers for at-risk Topeka households. Funds will be provided to the United Way of Greater Topeka, which will issue the vouchers to Community Action for distribution to residents in need of support.
To learn more about the COVID-19 recovery funds, see the full press release here.