Nonprofit leaders encourage people to make whatever payments possible on bills
SALISBURY — The leaders of Rowan Helping Ministries and the local Salvation Army have a similar message for the people experiencing economic hardship during the COVID-19 outbreak: pay as much of your bills as possible.
For now, electric, water, cable and internet companies and landlords have made concessions for people in tough economic circumstances because of the COVID-19 outbreak and the ensuing economic crash, including suspending cutoffs and not applying late payment fees. But Salvation Army Maj. Karl Dahlin and Rowan Helping Ministries Executive Director Kyna Grubb say the bills won’t stop entirely.
“It’s not free money. Bills haven’t stopped coming in. As soon as that protection is gone, it’s all going to come due,” Dahlin told the Post. “We’re encouraging people to stay current as much as they can.”
Like Dahlin, Grubb is worried about local needs after the outbreak ends and companies revert back to normal payment rules.
“If you wait until July and get your shutoff notice, it could end up beyond our capacity,” she said. “Pay what you can on your bills.”
As an example, Grubb said she sets aside a certain amount every month for to help people avoid utility cutoffs and evictions. Three months from now, those bills will be triple their normal amount.
“It will be a hit all at one time, and we’re using some of those funds now for things that are extraordinary, like boarding hosing, renting some rooms and hiring additional staff,” she said.
Their advice to the general public comes as both agencies have seen decreased foot traffic to their facilities — likely because of people heeding recommendations to stay home.
Dahlin said a drive-thru food pantry last week attracted about 10 people for assistance. Normally, it might be twice that number, he said. During an interview, Dahlin said, the phones in the Salvation Army office were “weirdly silent.”
“Usually, we’re having calls nonstop, with more need than we could ever fulfill,” he said.
And those usual times occurred prior to layoffs because of economic shutdowns, temporary or otherwise, because of COVID-19.
“It’s like before the big wave hits, the water all pulls out of the shoreline and then it hits at once,” he said. “The longer we’re into this, the more the need is piling up. My fear is that people will wait to ask for assistance.”
At Rowan Helping Ministries, the number of people volunteering has decreased. So, that’s led Grubb to hire staff for the kitchen. Though, the number of people coming to Jeannie’s Kitchen, the shelter’s cafeteria, for to-go meals is down by about 20 people. She’s also seen a decrease in food donations.
Those who wish to volunteer can email Betsy Warner at email@example.com.
But Rowan Helping Ministries faces other challenges, too, besides volunteer shortages during the COVID-19 outbreak. The shelter has largely stopped accepting new admissions, instead helping people who might become homeless stay in their current home.
Staff at the shelter also have turned offices into isolation rooms for people who are suspected of having COVID-19. So far, there have been no positive cases of COVID-19 among shelter guests, but there have been several individuals placed in the isolation rooms.
“If I become a sick shelter, everything changes,” Grubb said.
Lately, Grubb said, she’s been grateful for things like the donation of three infrared thermometers from Salisbury attorney Bill Graham and the support to build the Robertson-Stanback Center, a facility that opened in 2014, and that has prevent Rowan Helping Ministries from being strained for space right now.
Grubb said the best destination for people to make donations to help local folks affected by the COVID-19 outbreak is the Rowan County United Way’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, which has raised more than $50,000 to date.
Anyone interested in making a donation can do so at rowanunitedway.org, text the word “RELIEF” to 704-286-1011 or mail a contribution to the United Way at 131 West Innes St., Suite 201, Salisbury, N.C. 28144. Those mailing donations should address them to the attention of the COVID-19 Relief Fund. Those making a donation online should include a note in the comment section saying it’s for the COVID-19 Relief Fund.
People who wish to donate directly to the two agencies can do so at rowanhelpingministries.org or salvationarmyusa.org. Dahlin said that a donation to the Salvation Army would be routed to the local branch based on a person’s zip code.
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