For Gayshel Caldwell, COVID-19 reversed the roles in her household.
A 60-year-old grandmother living with her three grandchildren, she’s normally on the receiving end of their help for daily errands and tasks. But when her daughter came home from school with COVID-19, she said it was “devastating.”
“I’m an older lady with health issues,” she said. “COVID is especially not a friend in my condition.”
Caldwell became a caretaker again, disinfecting spaces and ensuring meals got to her grandchildren behind their closed doors while they quarantined. Still, the virus swept through the rest of the house.
That’s when local non-profit Asian Resources, Inc. stepped in to help during the household’s quarantine and subsequent recovery. Aside from offering prepared meals for her family across the span of a week, it chipped in to pay some of Caldwell’s bills.
ARI is offering bill assistance of up to $3,000 until June 30 to Sacramento County residents who test positive at their headquarters at 6270 Elder Creek Road.
Testing at the location is on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“It really makes a difference physically and mentally [to have accessed the programs],” she said. “The resources were extremely helpful — one of the best things you can pretty much experience in your life.”
For the bill assistance program, Caldwell gave a nonprofit representative copies of her bills and rental agreement, and the center paid the relevant parties directly.
Billy Gougherty, a program director at ARI, said the bill assistance program began as a way to incentivize people to get tested. He’s thought specifically about those who might not want to test due to missing work, or those who may not know about current employment laws and rights.
Both part-time and full-time workers are entitled to COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave, which must be offered to employees who leave their place of residence to work and who work for employers with 500 or more employees nationwide. It applies to those who have tested positive between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2022.
The ARI program is particularly timely as cases and transmission surge throughout the country, including outbreaks in Sacramento-area schools. On May 19, the U.S. COVID-19 response coordinator urged people who stopped wearing masks indoors to begin again.
“COVID is not over,” Gougherty said. “It's not over. And just as we've seen in the years past, these spikes can happen. And it's very important to be vigilant about this. And to not only keep testing regularly, but also, if you test positive, you need to isolate. Bottom line.”
The program covers up to $3,000 of bills, which include monthly recurring payments such as rent and utilities.
Most of the communication will be done over email, Gougherty said, and as in Caldwell’s experience, ARI asks for copies of some of those bills.
“It’s more so to see how much their average monthly bill is, to make sure the account is real and the individual is real, just to link up everything,” he said. “Even if they were current on the bills, we don’t want to discourage that [they ask about participating], because it could be used as hopefully a credit for their next bill for the next month.”
From there, the nonprofit makes out a check directly to the vendor and notifies them it is for an individual’s account.
Gougherty said the bill assistance program has been made possible through funding from the Sacramento County COVID-19 Collaborative, which also supports the prepared meal delivery program.
ARI is one of 13 Sacramento community-based partners involved in the collaborative, along with Sacramento County and the Sierra Health Foundation.
Sierra Health Foundation president Chet Hewitt said the collaborative was designed to mitigate impacts on those who might be hardest-hit by COVID-19 financially and physically.
“Folks who live in dense housing, families who shared a common household were more likely to experience the spread of COVID-19 and were less likely to be able to isolate and do many of the things that we asked people to do early on to prevent the spread of the virus,” he said. “We know that where you are, where you live and your socioeconomic status had a huge impact.”
Since Sept. 2020, the collaborative has distributed over $5 million in financial assistance through programs like those at ARI.
“People just need to realize that a lot of folks are struggling, or are actually working at the very same time, for whom this level of support makes the difference between buying medicine and having enough food and nutrition and paying your rent and keeping the lights on and doing all the things that we know families need to be [doing],” he said.
To learn more about the prepared meal delivery program and others offered by the Sacramento County COVID-19 Collaborative, including mental health services, you can email [email protected]
The bill assistance program ends on June 30. For more information, you can call Asian Resources, Inc. at (916) 454-1892 or send them a message.
Nicole Nixon contributed reporting.
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