For a comprehensive book of resources for the social challenges posed by the virus crisis, you can do no better than clip and save this one from Alabama Arise.
Among the topics covered are:
- Local food assistance
- Children’s meals services
- Unemployment compensation
- Legal aid
- Domestic violence
- Abuse in a nursing home
- Price gouging
- Community health centers
- Meals on Wheels
- Senior meals distribution centers
- Pandemic unemployment assistance
- Stoppage of evictions, as ordered by the governor
- Homeless prevention and rapid rehousing funds
Carol Gundlach, a policy analyst with Alabama Arise, gave us an overview of what the group’s workers have been seeing.
“Since we have all been sequestered, we’ve been hearing a lot and getting a lot of calls in all kinds of areas, and hunger is one of them,” says Gundlach. “The emergency bastion is food banks, and the food pantries associated with them, run by community groups and churches. The real challenge, based on my church in Montgomery, is that pantry volunteers are older people, and they are concerned, so a lot of panties are closing or having to change how they do business.”
Another problem, she notes, is getting food supplies to the food banks that distribute to the pantries. It’s a situation detailed by Laura Lester, director of the Alabama Food Bank Association, in an April 27 story on Business Alabama, “Alabama Food Banks Stretch to Serve Growing Demand.”
“A combination of a bad economy, the virus and the shutdown makes it really challenging to get out to the people and get them the food they need as quickly as they need it,” says Gundlach.
“The SNAP food assistance program, administered by the Department of Human Resources, has seen a 155 percent increase in the applications they get every month. The volume slows the processing. And add to that the fact that the workers themselves are trying to work remotely, the technology problems, it’s difficult to just to get the applications processed and out the door.”
A similar bottleneck has been experienced by the Alabama Department of Labor in processing unemployment claims.
“They are working with very old computer systems, both SNAP and unemployment,” says Gundlach. “The agencies have worked hard to process the applications, but the technology is a challenge.”
Asked about the far greater delays the Florida unemployment claims agency is facing, Gundlach notes, “Florida contracted out a lot of public assistance programs to for-profit vendors, and they’re having trouble trying to act as state agencies. I never liked the Florida model.”
Alabama Arise is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of congregations, organizations and individuals that promotes policies to improve the lives of Alabamians with low incomes.