The Covid-19 pandemic impacted most people in unprecedented ways, but hit especially hard were people with limited incomes and those whose wages were affected by job lay-offs or reduction in work hours. Blueprints, the community action agency serving Washington and Greene counties, answered the call from federal, state and local funding entities to respond and support children and families in our community during the exceptional challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Blueprints pivoted to providing its critical health, education and human services remotely, early in the pandemic. “We also began to identify issues that families and children were facing as a result of social isolation, reduced wages, and health concerns,” said Darlene Bigler, CEO of Blueprints, “and realized that people needed help in areas like housing, internet connection and technology, educating their children, health supplies and PPE. Families especially needed support to maintain the assets and gains they made over the years to forge their way ahead and out of poverty.”
President of Blueprints Board of Directors Scott Slagle added “Fortunately, local donors and community foundations, as well as local, state and federal government authorities stood ready to help, and Blueprints was able to mobilize resources to address these emerging needs.” All told, Blueprints mobilized more than $10 million to provide direct assistance to families, upgrade technology to better serve children and families, retrofit classrooms and offices for safety and social distancing, and design new programs to address pandemic deficits over the next eighteen to twenty-four months.
These resources made it possible for Blueprints to:
- Upgrade technology so that staff could work remotely and provide virtual learning to children and adults, money management counseling and job development
- Provide technology to families for adult and early learning opportunities
- Retrofit early learning classrooms, senior centers, WIC clinics and Blueprints offices and service areas to provide for social distancing and safety
- Upgrade air filtration systems in early learning classrooms
- Purchase PPE, safety equipment, and cleaning supplies for offices and service sites, as well as participants homes
- Enhance cleaning of service sites
- Provide learning materials to families to use at home during virtual programming
- Create emergency programs to assure that families could stay current with household bills, learn of and access specialized assistance to help during the pandemic
- Help households impacted by income and wage loss as a result of the pandemic with rent, utility, and mortgage assistance
- Assist foster families with unexpected expenses like PPE, cleaning supplies, and food
- Expand home delivered meals for seniors in Greene County
- Provide financial support for child care center partners during family and child quarantine periods
In the coming months, Blueprints will offer services that help move children and families beyond the pandemic and position them for success:
- Summer early learning classes for Head Start children entering kindergarten in the fall
- Develop a certified training program for entry level jobs in child care
- Empower children in the independent living program to reach self-sufficiency through enhanced education, employment, housing and food
- Expand recruitment of children for early learning programs and adults for employment
- Upgrade playgrounds and kitchens in early learning centers to increase outdoor play and assure safety
In addition, Blueprints will continue to offer mortgage assistance help to homeowners and rent and utility assistance to those who rent their home.
Upwards of 20,000 people are served by Blueprints programs in the areas of home, health, mind and wallet each year. Bigler says it will take time, perhaps years, for families to recover from the economic impact of Covid-19. But she says that’s what Blueprints specializes in – helping to break barriers and build futures.