Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) has been awarded $3.85 million in emergency funding to assist Hinds County residents and communities impacted by COVID-19.
Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), HCHRA received $1.7 million in CARES funding from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, to help prepare low-income children for kindergarten during the coronavirus health crisis.
HCHRA has 16 Head Start centers in Hinds County, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state of Mississippi. Like so many other schools across the country located in coronavirus hot spots, HCHRA has been forced to delay the start of school and will open with a virtual learning model to help mitigate the spread of the disease.
The agency will use the CARES funding to invest in technology to support distance learning for the nearly 2,000 children enrolled in its Head Start program. HCHRA is working to make sure that every Head Start family has access to a mobile device and reliable internet so they can participate in teacher-led video instruction and access online learning tools. Funding will also be used to provide Head Start families and staff with supportive services and training on infectious disease prevention and management. As soon as it is safe to do so, HCHRA will return to in-person classroom instruction. To prepare for reopening, the agency has already invested a significant amount of resources into procuring disinfecting services and purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and students to last through the end of the school year.
In addition to the CARES funding received from the Office of Head Start, HCHRA received $779,665 in Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds from the Mississippi
Department of Human Services (MDHS), Division of Community Services, to provide Hinds County residents with energy assistance payments, and another $1,276,706 in Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds to address education, employment, housing and nutrition, as well as a number of other community needs. These federal funds were issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services to the MDHS for administration at the state level. MDHS awarded subgrants to community action agencies such as HCHRA for coronavirus relief efforts to be provided at a local level. The agency was also granted more than $151,000 from the Mississippi Department of Transportation to put safety and sanitation measures in place to help protect HCHRA employees and the general public who relies on the agency’s rural transit system as a primary mode of transportation.
HCHRA is a nonprofit community action agency whose work is focused on the creation of systems to properly address and alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty and create economic stability in homes. This includes systems that deliver short-term emergency relief in a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic. “The sudden and unexpected loss of jobs and wages caused widespread financial hardships,” said Kenn Cockrell, president and CEO of HCHRA. “People who have never needed a helping hand before are now trying to figure out how to feed their families, and the impact on poor working families has been even more devastating. Fortunately, the CARES funding we received allows us to provide immediate solutions to help stabilize homes and communities during this very unique and unusual time.”
Those who have lost jobs or had their work hours cut and meet the state median income guidelines, can receive direct financial assistance with paying their utility bills and meeting other basic needs. HCHRA will also be working with community partners to develop joint initiatives to provide additional opportunities and access to a broader range of resources to help individuals overcome the negative social and economic effects of COVID-19. “We are looking to partner with organizations whose missions not only align with ours, but those who offer services which we do not,” said Cockrell. “Our goal is to respond to the needs of the community as quickly as we can, so people can focus on getting through this pandemic and moving forward with their lives.”
Hinds County residents adversely affected by COVID-19 can go to hchra.itfrontdesk.com or call (601) 962-5935 to schedule an appointment for assistance. Households that have not been directly affected may still receive assistance through HCHRA’s regular programs and services.