Our response to COVID-19
I trust you, your families and colleagues are doing well during this unprecedented COVID 19 health crisis. I want to take this opportunity to give you a brief update and summary of our agency's operations and staff's well-being during these challenging times.
Over the past several weeks the Urban League has continued to monitor community developments of COVID-19 and has taken critical steps to follow CDC and State guidelines to ensure we can continue to provide important, essential services to the community while ensuring the safety of our staff.
Currently, our Urban League staff are working reduced hours and serving clients from four of our eight sites. Our WIC, College Club, Workforce Development, Urban Seniors Job’s Program and administrative functions are being delivered electronically via telephone and/or email. In promoting extreme social distancing staff work alternating days and staggered times.
Since modifying our way of serving clients, our WIC staff have been inundated with calls and inquiries from moms and families anxious to get their benefits restored or extended so that they can go grocery shopping for milk and other approved food items authorized as part of their WIC benefits package. Feeding families and ensuring access to food items are essential for these income eligible pregnant women and families with children under five years of age. We recognize the urgency and hear the desperation in the voices of these clients as they contact our offices. We are interacting with hundreds per day!
Another vulnerable population we are serving are over 175 individuals ages 55 years and older who are residents of Oakland and Wayne Counties. These men and women are participants in our Urban Senior Job Program (USJP) that train in the offices of other not for profits to develop and improve their workforce preparedness. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic these USJP participants are unable to currently report to their training sites, but fortunately as of Thursday, March 19, 2020, we have been able to help sustain them by providing some minimum wage income every two weeks as a result of a special U.S. Department of Labor approval and waiver permitting National Urban League sub-grantees to place participants on a Special COVID-19 Sick Leave status. Our USJP staff are in touch with these program participants every week to verify their health status and seek to ensure that they have access to the resources needed to sustain themselves. Our USJP staff are also completing basic prescribed program requirements and implementing on-line or telephone-based training programs required by our funding source. The interaction with this senior population is sometimes a little challenging since many in this age group and poverty level don’t always have access to the Internet or computers in their home.
We are continuing to support our college club youth members and are developing a digital college club curriculum to expand our reach throughout Southeastern Michigan. With schools closed and young people looking for ways in which to prepare for the next phase of their educational life. It is imperative that we stay in the forefront of opportunities while continuing to provide important financial resource information and college entry support for young people interested in pursuing post-secondary education.
Meanwhile, seeing the potential massive need to assist displaced workers we are gearing up our workforce development programs to provide resources that support access to emerging career fields and workforce development needs coming out of this pandemic. We are deeply concerned with the status of our regular workforce clients, the large number of layoffs and jobs lost is going to be devastating for so many in our community. While we have limited staff, we are working to beef up our preparation for an increased number of individuals that we anticipate will be seeking our assistance and coming into our facility once its reopened to the public to use our Comcast Computer Lab for their employment search. We know that experts are saying that many jobs will not be coming back, or at least not quickly, so there will be significant numbers of individuals actively in the job market. Identifying additional resources and staff will be tantamount to our being ready to serve this population.
As we move through this pandemic together, we are staying prayerful that we will emerge more grateful, more thoughtful, more conscious of our neighbor’s needs, and internally thankful for the opportunity to serve others.
Lastly, I want to express our sincere appreciation for the support you have provided to the Urban League of Detroit and Southeastern Michigan over the years. We hope that you will continue to provide your financial and physical resources to support our efforts to uplift the underserved in our community.
We welcome your thoughts and would appreciate your Donations through the link below.
The Global Day of Giving is Tuesday, May 5
N. Charles Anderson