CINCINNATI — We've heard from many of you about how difficult the unemployment process is. We've also heard that many of you are working fewer hours, but still working, so you're not eligible for unemployment. So what are you supposed to do? The mortgage or rent is still due.
While the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services works to resolve unemployment claims, other organizations in the community are helping those without a job or low income. Here are some resources you can reach out to to help with bills and other necessities if you feel like you've fallen through the cracks.
Since March 21, the electric power holding company has promised to not disconnect any customer’s service for non-payment and has also waived late-payment fees.
“We want to make sure we’re working with customers,” said Duke Energy Spokesperson Sally Thelen. “We know they’re going to have other hardships with mortgages, other responsibilities.”
Thelen recommends that you still try to pay everything on time so that the payments don’t add up, creating another headache once this period is over.
Join our Getting a Job in the Cincinnati Area Facebook page to connect to other people who are out of work and to find resources and job openings.
“What we’re trying to recommend is that customers don’t completely put us out of your mind because at some point, when things get a little bit back to normal, we’ll have to go back to normal billing practices and you will have accrued billing that we can work with customers on to make a payment plan and spread that out,” Thelen said.
Right now, Thelen said, there isn't a time frame for when Duke will go back to normal, but they are turning to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with guidance from governors.
“For now we don’t want to be the major headache for everyone,” Thelen said.
The company is also giving back to the community. The Duke Energy Foundation has raised over $150,000 since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to serve agencies that are helping collect necessities for those in need.
The foundation is contributing a total of $1.3 million to the crisis. So far, it has given grants to organizations like 3CDC, Christ Hospitals, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Cincinnati Public Schools.
“We’re proud to get out there and help many of these agencies that need it so much,” she said.
You can find more information on payment plans and billing on their website. However, in order to ask for help and change your plan, you have to call 800-544-6900.
For more than 100 years, The United Way of Greater Cincinnati has helped the community. Now, they are taking that help in an extra direction for anyone affected by COVID-19.
“Within the first 24 hours of things happening, we said that the folks we already have contracts with we forwarded their allocation just because we knew they were already nervous about how they were going to make payroll,” said President and CEO Moira Weir.
The organization has also partnered with The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and raised over $5 million to help people with housing, food, senior services, child care and medical needs during this time.
“We knew they were already struggling and we were trying to support them, but knowing when COVID hit we also know that those families are disproportionately impacted more than anybody else,” said Weir.
The nonprofit also now has a partnership with Job and Family Services, where Weir used to work. Through that partnership, they were able to distribute more than 32,000 gift cards to assist people with food.
“An individual presents themselves, they’ve applied for assistance but there’s going to be a gap [from when they applied to when they need the food], so here’s a $100 food card to go get some food for your family,” she explained.
If you need assistance with food, shelter or any help from The United Way, call 211.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program
WIC (Women, Infants, and Children Program), which is locally run by the Cincinnati Health Department, already saw a boost of 200 clients in the month of April.
“Case load was going down just a little bit and now with this a lot of more people are in need of our services and it’s an important service,” said WIC Director Betsy Buchanan.
WIC is a nutrition and educational program for women who have recently had a baby, are pregnant, or have children up to 5 years old. The organization also provides nutritional education, breastfeeding support, healthy food and instant formula.
“WIC serves about 50% of all the babies born, so it’s a really important program to get a good start,” Buchanan said.
WIC helps people virtually through their YouTube channel, along with an electronic benefits card mothers can take to the grocery store to get free food.
“Our case load last year was approximately 15,000 and that would be women, infants and children,” Buchanan said. “I think during this crisis people are going to need these services more, so I would think those numbers might go up.”
To receive help from WIC, you must call 513-821-7012 and meet the income eligibility requirements below.
“We have to verify if folks are on Medicaid already, or if they receive food stamps, because if so, they automatically qualify,” she said.
Community Fellowship Church in Lawrenceburg, Indiana
Apart from organizations, local churches are also trying to do their part to help people during this time, and many local churches are offering help.
In Lawrenceburg, Community Fellowship Church, which is now providing in-person services again, set up a COVID-19 relief fund.
“We have our general benevolence fund to help people here in the church in the community, but this other fund is for people to give to specifically to someone affected by the pandemic,” said Pastor Paul Woodburn.
Woodburn wants to help those in the Greater Lawrenceburg and Cincinnati areas. The money goes to help with medical bills, paying electric bills, mortgages, getting groceries and more.
“I know a lot of people in our congregation are furloughed or have lost their job,” he said. “We always want to make sure we’re helping people, but this is a unique time.”
He asks that if you are without food, supplies or need prayers, to contact the church at 812-537-4451 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re an organization or individual willing to provide help during this time, reach out to WCPO 9 News Reporter Paola Suro at 513-256-9507 or at email@example.com.