Community Action Agencies and a global pandemic

Issues related to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, are rapidly changing. Every day, new information is released, meetings and events are canceled, and many have had to change ways in which they operate to comply with school closings and much more. Though many uncertainties remain, this is what the Community Action network was built for—no, I don’t mean a pandemic specifically. For over 55 years, Community Action has always been ready to step up and help communities, bridge gaps, gather strong partners, and lead with innovative ideas to build, adapt, and recover from whatever is thrown our way.

The strength and power of our network is evident to anyone who is a part of the over 6,500 Ohioans who work every day to help communities. If you’re fortunate like me and can look behind the scenes at the passion, talent, and experience of each and every person in this network, you’ll be a witness to some fantastic things.

Beginning several weeks ago, before COVID-19 was determined a pandemic by the World Health Organization, leaders across Ohio and across the country started a dialogue. Unsure of how the virus would evolve throughout the U.S. though believing we all should be ready for surprises, leaders shared policies and procedures, discussed funding requirements, and developed ideas and plans of action to overcome challenges that could arise. And, at the heart of all of these discussions, our customers remained the focus.

For low-income Americans, missing a day of work or facing an unplanned school closing for three weeks could quickly throw a household into a tailspin. When possible, people have been encouraged to self-quarantine and work from home, though many jobs and industries can’t do that. While some can take advantage of sick or vacation time, others don’t have benefits like paid time off. Families whose children receive free or reduced lunches at school, budget their household groceries around those meals being provided, yet now they will need to adjust to provide those meals at home while also seeking care options for their children so they can continue to work—that is, if their hours aren’t cut back or if they become sick and cannot work themselves.

These and more are realities for so many of our neighbors every day—not just during a pandemic. Because the Community Action network has so many experts who know this, within minutes of the Ohio school closure announcement yesterday, leaders were jumping into action, sharing how our network that serves every Ohio county could help. Our work doesn’t stop there. Community Action will continue to push ahead and develop solutions to whatever lies ahead.

As the 47 agencies throughout the state advance in our mission of helping people and changing lives, OACAA will be there, too, along with many of our national partners. Below are a few resources to help support your local efforts. Keep an eye on our website for more information as it becomes available.