FiveCap provides essential services during coronavirus pandemic

Low to moderate income families eligible

LAKE COUNTY -- FiveCap continues to provide essential services for adults and children in the face of COVID-19, a news release from April 9 states.

FiveCap is a community action agency created by the state in 1965 to address issues around poverty and promote individual and family self-sufficiency. It serves the four-county area of Lake, Mason, Manistee and Newaygo.

"Recession, inflation, joblessness, and a host of other economic factors have had a devastating impact over the years on residents within the FiveCap four-county region, but nothing has come close to the COVID-19 impact," said executive director Mary Trucks.

"This one is packed with misery for the long term," she said. "Low income families always suffer more in situations like this, so we will continue to try to alleviate as much of the pain as possible, using resources from the state and federal government and the private sector."

Agencies such as FiveCap are recognized by Gov. Getchen Whitmer as part of the critical infrastructure during response to the COVID-19 pandemic because they are providing essential goods and services to vulnerable populations, said Kris Schoenow, executive director of the Bureau of Community Action and Economic Opportunity, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

"As the tragedy of COVID-19 unfolds, it is clear that low income families, seniors, those who are homeless and people with special needs are going to feel its impact deeply for a long time," he said.

According to Trucks, the requests for urgent help have increased in the past month. In addition, FiveCap has been asked to provide educational materials to families with children, now that schools are closed, and they are providing diapers and other essential items to Head Start and Early Head Start families.

Food distribution continues

"We were asked by the state to operate our scheduled food distribution during the stay in place order," Trucks said.

Provisions for seniors are available to supplement what they are able to purchase. They receive a two-month supply of food items including vegetables, soups, rice, juice, meat and plant-based proteins, and dairy, she said.

Low income families can receive a three-month supply of food.

The next Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) distribution for seniors will be April 8. The next Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) distribution for families will be June 4.

To sign up for assistance, contact (231) 745-4617 in Lake County or the main office at (231) 757-3785.

Coronavirus procedures in place

To help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, while still providing essential services, the staff are wearing masks and observing the six-foot social distancing recommendation. In addition, staff members are checking their temperature every morning.

After receiving a request for assistance, items are packaged by a staff member and placed outside the door of the facility for the family to pick up in order to minimize exposure to both the staff and the families, Trucks said.

According to the FiveCap website, all county offices will remain open, however, extra precautions will be taken to keep common areas clean and sanitized.

Sanitizing of counters, pens and restrooms will occur after each use. Formal cleaning will take place three times a day. Staff will be using sanitizing spray and wipes, hand sanitizer and bleach solution to clean.

Clients in the reception area will be limited to three at a time, and staff will maintain the six-foot social distance when in contact with the client. Hands, desks and chair surfaces will be sanitized after each use.

Support workers will make regular calls to check on vulnerable clients.

Applications for assistance will be taken by phone. Any necessary documentation can be dropped off at the office.

Head Start centers are closed until further notice, but staff will continue to contact families weekly. Early Head Start home visits are suspended until further notice. Staff are maintaining twice weekly contact with families.

Face-to-face tax preparation appointments are suspended until further notice. Residents can prepare and file their taxes over the phone. Necessary documents will need to be provided by fax or email.

Trucks said helping residents get their federal tax form filed this spring is especially important because the COVID-19 stimulus payments will be based on the 2018 or 2019 income tax filing.

"We are in this for the long haul," Trucks said. "When we opened in 1965, we were one of the only organizations helping low income people. Now there are many throughout our region, and we refer and coordinate with each other so together we can do the best job possible for those who need us."

For assistance with food, shelter and other emergency needs, contact FiveCap at (231) 745-4617 or (231) 757-3785, or email fivecap@fivecap.org.