With so much in the news and information about the coronavirus epidemic being shared right now, important developments and emerging strategies can be easy to miss. To help cut through the static, the John T. Gorman Foundation will be providing a periodic roundup of news articles chronicling the emerging challenges of vulnerable Mainers, and highlight new resources and innovative practices that may be helpful to organizations, individuals, and communities working to address those challenges. We hope you find this summary useful. NOTE: the resource items referenced below, and others, can be found on the Foundation’s COVID-19 Resources page.
With concerns about coronavirus spreading among homeless Mainers who don’t have the ability to shelter in place, several partnerships have been emerging across the state to develop temporary wellness centers for individuals to safely seek refuge. Among the first were led by Preble Street Resource Center in Portland and Aroostook County Action Program in Presque Isle.
Over the last two weeks, Bangor and Lewiston have become the latest Maine communities to mount such efforts, with Hope House opening a shelter for 20 people in Bangor and Community Concepts converting the Lewiston Armory to house up to 60. Many thanks to all these groups for their efforts to protect some of Maine’s most vulnerable people.
Further Reading: Housing and Homelessness
As thousands of Mainers have become unemployed during the outbreak, the state’s food pantries have seen an incredible increase in demand, even as they encounter new challenges to procuring and distributing food. They are not alone, as food assistance organizations face similar issues across the country (this piece on CBS Sunday Morning highlighted several, including Lewiston’s own Trinity Jubilee Center and St. Mary’s Nutrition Center).
Last week, Good Shepherd Food Bank – which distributes food to hundreds of programs across Maine – reported that it expects to take on $6.3 million in additional costs to offset the increase in demand and decrease in food donations during the pandemic. Many other nonprofits are dealing with similar effects on their budgets. Several local nonprofit leaders interviewed this week offered their perspective on what it will take to get their organization through this difficult time.
Further Reading: Food Security
With schools closed for the rest of the school year, teachers, parents and students have been adjusting as best they can to remote learning. As Maine’s Education Commissioner Pender Kimball wrote recently, “Teaching your kids at home is tough – we’re all finding our way.”
But many rural communities are struggling because they don’t have access to Broadband Internet. In response, Maine Public has partnered with Educate Maine and the Department of Educate to televise The Learning Space, an educational program. MaineSpark has also published a COVID resource page for students and families.
Further Reading: Education
Children, Youth, and Families
Several articles over the last couple of weeks have looked at how the pandemic has created more stress at home for many parents and their children in Maine. While parents must now juggle educating their kids while finding ways to keep food on the table, children and youth are lacking social interactions that help drive their healthy development. And special challenges exist for families who have students with disabilities and families dealing with joint custody of their children.
Further Reading: Children, Youth, and Families
Support from the federal stimulus bills is starting to reach areas of critical need in Maine. It was reported last week that Maine child care providers—a critical sector hit hard by the effects of the pandemic—would receive about $11 million in coronavirus relief. Maine colleges and universities will receive $41 million in federal aid to distribute aid to students to pay for things like housing, food, and child care. And, with passage of another stimulus bill last week, Maine nonprofits and small businesses are now able to apply for a second round of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans. Maine received $1.5 billion in the initial round.
A blog post by the Maine Association of Nonprofits has the latest on how federal legislation affects Maine nonprofits, including information on applying for loans. (MANP’S blog is a great resource on how Maine nonprofits are adapting to the crisis and what resources are available to them.)
The Kids Are Alright
Whether it’s been University of New England students who have joined forces to provide child care to frontline health care workers or culinary students at the Lewiston Technical Institute who are preparing 400 meals a day to deliver to those in need, young Mainers have been rising to the challenge of serving their communities during this difficult time.
This week, special shout outs go to Dayton Consolidated School students who have been writing to a homebound 92-year-old senior and a 7-year-old girl from Warren who sold some of her toys and donated the proceeds to a local food pantry. What a sacrifice!
From the John T. Gorman Foundation, stay safe and have a good week.