ABCD steps up aid for struggling residents with federal CARES ACT grant

August 6th, 2020

Lee Phenner
339.368.1140 (mobile)

30 million unemployed due to COVID shutdown in deepening crisis after essential $600 per week federal payment ended July 31

ABCD continues frontline aid to low-income Boston-area residents, boosted now by federal CARES ACT grant to combat COVID-19 destruction

On July 31 more than 950,000 Massachusetts residents lost the $600 per week federal unemployment payment that has kept food on the table and paid the rent since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the state in March, with residents sheltered in place and the economy falling out from under them. Tens of thousands more were already living below the poverty level when the virus struck.

Nationally, approximately 30 million people are out of work, one out of every seven households.

Ongoing procrastination by some member of Congress has deepened the crisis, as continuing delay in passage of a second virus relief bill leaves 30 million high and dry, running out of food and essential goods and fearing homelessness after the federal eviction moratorium ended July 25.  

John J. Drew, President/CEO, Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), called the procrastination on this essential bill unconscionable. “One out of every seven households in America is losing the $600 per week that kept them going during this horrific and ongoing pandemic,” he said “If continued unresolved it deepens an already catastrophic economic collapse upon millions of hardworking, lower-income individuals and families who keep this country going.”

Drew thanked the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation for their strong advocacy on behalf of the almost one million people in Massachusetts who have lost benefits. He also expressed appreciation to Governor Charlie Baker for extending the moratorium on housing evictions and foreclosures until October 17 and to Mayor Marty Walsh for his steadfast leadership in Boston from the pandemic’s start.

“We need a federal moratorium on eviction while COVID-19 persists,” he said. “We need sweeping federal action with the $600 a week lifeline reinstated, eviction protection, and funding that provides for health care, housing, education and all the services that keep people safe at work, school and home until this deadly virus is conquered.”

CARES ACT funds will meet critical needs

ABCD is committing $5 million in funding from the federal CARES ACT to provide for crisis intervention and direct relief including food and basic necessities for those most in need. An additional $1 million will go to emergency rental and mortgage assistance and help for children, the elderly and those with disabilities.

In addition, ABCD has raised more than $500,000 from individuals, businesses, foundations, and others, with those funds committed to the battle against COVID-19 devastation. Drew thanked the giving community for their generous help, noting that ongoing assistance will be needed as this unprecedented crisis continues.

ABCD also expects to receive additional funds from the COVID-19 relief bill currently stalled in Congress.

In addition to meeting the needs cited above, the CARES ACT will provide additional resources for Head Start and for the winter Fuel Assistance/Weatherization programs. ABCD plans to provide at least $1,000 to more than 30,000 low-income Boston-area households that need help with heat in winter, including those with infants, children, elders, and persons with disabilities, paid directly to the household’s fuel or utility vendor with direct payments to households if the heat is included in their rent.

New programs will be launched

CARES ACT funding is enabling ABCD to launch new cutting-edge programs and neighborhood-based collaborations, including:

·       Several major programs assisting groups with specific needs. Together these programs will serve close to 3,000 low-income youth, adults and seniors: Youth Employment and Training; Adult Skills Training; Elder Services; ESOL; Housing Counseling and Advocacy; and Community Health Services.

·       A critically important Emergency Food and Supplies Delivery program is providing a unified, streamlined system for sourcing and delivering emergency food and other critical household supplies such as diapers, formula, cleaning materials and more with an emphasis on serving those who are elderly, handicapped, or caring for small children. It is expected to reach 1,000 consumers.

·       The ABCD Direct Relief for Crisis Needs program provides access to cash relief for households in crisis, with an emphasis on short-term rental assistance and other crucial emergency needs. Linked with ABCD Housing Counseling, it will reach up to 2,000 households.

·       Remote Client Support including information and referral offers telephone-based and online support services to low-income households, including outreach, needs assessment, wellness checks, information and referral, case management, and brief supportive counseling. This service is expected to reach up to 7,000 persons. 

·       The Critical Technology for Remote Services program will help reduce the digital divide that afflicts low-income neighborhoods, bringing user-friendly technology to the community including families, youth and elders who have a critical need for access to Internet-based communications and services.

·       Impact Evaluation will capture the effects of ABCD’s COVID-19 response and its impact on the community, helping to set plans, policies and priorities for the future and ensuring that ABCD and other community organizations can meet changing needs in challenging times.

·       Interagency Collaborative Development is the collaboration with and expansion of ABCD’s grassroots network of community partnerships, with CARES Act funding providing the ability to “spread the wealth” with a wide range of organizations sharing resources and working together to better meet the needs of the individuals, families, youth and elders they serve. Initial partnerships include those with Asian American Civic Association, Urban College of Boston, Kennedy Center, and Higher Ground Boston, and others.

ABCD services ongoing throughout pandemic

ABCD sites have been open continuously during the pandemic and staff members there will continue to provide all possible necessary assistance, especially during this current critical period when the $600 unemployment payment has stopped going to millions of people on July 31.

During the pandemic, ABCD neighborhood centers stayed open and met emergency needs daily, providing everything from housing, food and utilities to diapers, formula and other essentials.

Virus shines light on economic, health disparities in communities of color

Drew pointed out that in low-income communities of color served by ABCD, health and economic disparities were always evident. The coronavirus has moved cruelly through these neighborhoods, causing significantly higher rates of illness and death than in more affluent communities.

“With the virus shining a light on the painful disparities resulting from generations of systemic racism and poverty, we see that greater action is needed to reduce those inequalities,” he said. “The current movement for racial justice and equity is crucial for all of us.”

Programs continue downtown and in neighborhoods

ABCD is continuing the remote assistance that has been a lifeline for many in need throughout the pandemic. The neighborhood centers will be opening for in-person services by appointment in the near future. Food pantries are providing direct service observing strict COVID-19 guidelines.

Several ABCD Head Start and Early Head Start centers serving preschool children from low-income families are expected to open in coming weeks. Extensive renovation and staff training has taken place to provide a safe environment meeting strict standards from the federal Department of Health & Human Services that funds and oversee the nation’s Head Start programs.

ABCD has left no stone unturned in making its physical spaces safe, working with experts to renovate and modify all its sites downtown and throughout Boston neighborhoods and adjacent communities to meet rigorous federal, state and local requirements. These safety initiatives include installation of Plexiglas® panels, infrastructure improvements, new routes through buildings to avoid personal contact, PPE availability, and requirements that staff and visitors wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

 “We will keep doing what we have always done,” said Drew. “Providing needed services and opportunities so that those struggling to make ends meet can survive this crisis and move forward with their lives. Thanks to the CARES ACT, we have upped our game. We now have more resources to combat the economic destruction caused by the descent of this deadly virus on communities already battling poverty, racism and health issues.”

For more information and to access ABCD programs and services, please visit bostonabcd.org.


About ABCD

Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) is a nonprofit community action organization that provides low-income residents in the Boston and Mystic Valley areas with the tools, support, and resources they need to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success. Each year, ABCD serves more than 100,000 individuals, elders and families through a broad range of innovative initiatives as well as long-established, proven programs and services. For more than 50 years, ABCD has been deeply rooted in each neighborhood we serve, empowering individuals and families and supporting them in their quest to live with dignity and achieve their highest potential. For more, please visit bostonabcd.org.