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Posted on: September 2, 2022

Emergency declaration may be over, but county continues to offer pandemic assistance programs

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As the nation slowly emerges from more than two years of COVID-related emergency restrictions and declarations, Orange County continues to offer programs and services for residents who are still struggling from the health and economic effects of the pandemic.

Governor Roy Cooper allowed the state's coronavirus-related Declaration of Emergency to expire on Aug. 15, while the Orange County state of emergency declaration expired May 1.

“Even though the state and local declarations of emergency regarding COVID have ended, many households still are experiencing challenges in rebounding from the pandemic,” said Orange County Chair Renee Price. “We want our residents to understand that we continue to provide services to those needing assistance paying utilities, rent and other household expenses.”

Affordable and secure housing is an issue throughout the nation and has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Orange County offers many programs to help residents struggling to stay in their homes or apartments, including emergency housing assistance.

The EHA Program provided more than $10.4 million in housing assistance to more than 4,200 Orange County residents since March 2020. Orange County also administered the first round of the HOPE Program beginning in the Fall of 2020 and disbursed $1.9 million to over 400 families. Combined, the programs provided nearly $12.3 million to ensure residents can remain in stable housing.

Residents can learn more about the EHA and HOPE programs on this page, which also has instructions on how to apply and a link to the application. If you are experiencing a housing crisis, please contact housinghelp@orangecountync.gov or call the Housing Helpline at (919) 245-2655. 

During the pandemic, the Orange County Department on Aging (OCDoA) quickly pivoted from in-person programs at the Passmore Center in Hillsborough and Seymour Center in Chapel Hill to parking lot and virtual programming. The Department stayed in touch with participants through phone calls, cards, outdoor and virtual visits. In addition, new programs and services were created to meet the needs of older adults during this time of social isolation.

As things opened back up, OCDoA programs and services moved indoors, however, many of the new programs and methods of delivery continue and remain popular. Below is a sample of a few of the numerous programs offered:

Daily hot lunches served on-site or for curbside pick-up at either senior center. Registration is required to participate in the program. At this time, the department is only accepting new applications for county residents age 60 and over who can pick up a meal at either the Seymour Center or Passmore Center. With our current funding source, the curbside meals are scheduled to continue through September.  After that time, lunch participants will need to come inside to pick-up their meal if they do not feel comfortable dining in. For questions or help filling out the lunch application, please contact food services coordinator Isabel Jackson by email or phone at (919) 245-4256.

Caregiver Support Groups offer a space to meet with other caregivers to share experiences, learn new skills, and get answers to questions about dementia and other long-term disabilities. During the worst of the pandemic, support groups met virtually, and one group continues to meet virtually. In addition, the Passmore Caregiver Support Group and Seymour Caregiver Support Group have returned as in-person options. All caregiver support groups meet twice a month. For more information, please contact the Aging Helpline at 919-968-2087 or agingtransitions@orangecountync.gov.

Community-Based Services added Tour Tuesdays at the Seymour Center to introduce the public back to the Seymour Center and continue to offer this program. Chinese Dance Party is a new program initiated to encourage our Chinese population to return to the centers. This popular program continues to grow. Gardening has been a healthy, safe way to stay active during the pandemic, and the Garden Clubs continue to be active and take on new beautification projects at both centers.

The Sunshine Program reaches isolated older adults with a short in-person visit to check in and brighten their day. Homebound individuals also receive cards of encouragement from volunteers and staff. Virtual Health Promotion, Educational Programs and Exercise Classes were such a hit that they have continued virtually or in a hybrid format. To see all of our programs each quarter, pick up an Endless Possibilities activity guide at either center or online at www.orangecountync.gov/EP

Commodity Supplemental Food Program food boxes continue to be delivered to transit dependent or homebound individuals, and provided to those who are able pick up or designate a pick-up person. This Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina sponsored program provides a monthly box of food to supplement the nutritional needs of qualifying low-income older adults. For information, or to apply for this FREE food program, email Shenae McPherson, Volunteer Connect 55+ (VC55+) Administrator, call 919-245-4243 or stop by the front desk at either center.

The Mail & Budget Management Volunteer Program serves Orange County seniors that need assistance with basic budgeting, sorting mail and emails, and avoiding financial fraud and other scams. If you are interested in becoming a Mail & Budget Management Volunteer or learning more about the program, please contact Shenae McPherson at 919-245-4243 or Lydia Arnold at 919-245-4276. 

Telephone Reassurance Program provides morning wellness-check calls between 8-10 a.m., Monday through Friday, offering a sense of security and support. This program offers an opportunity for both volunteers and participants to engage through phone conversations as we continue working to decrease social isolation. To receive Telephone Reassurance calls or to volunteer, please contact Shenae McPherson at 919-245-4243 or Lydia Arnold at 919-245-4276.

To learn more about Orange County Department on Aging’s programs, services and resources, visit the Passmore Center located at 103 Meadowlands Drive in Hillsborough (919-245-2015), the Seymour Center at 2551 Homestead Road in Chapel Hill (919-968-2070) or online at www.orangecountync.gov/Aging.

DSS continues to operate pandemic related programs for water and utility assistance and enhanced pandemic benefits for traditional programs like Food and Nutrition Services. We have staff available to assist with employment services and other social work programs. 

DSS can provide emergency financial support for rent and utilities and ongoing support for food assistance through Food and Nutrition Services and food distributions and medical assistance through Medicaid. Clients can come to either office location or give us a call at 919-245-2800.

While there are no longer any COVID-related restrictions in effect in Orange County, residents are still encouraged to practice safety to protect themselves and others. COVID is still circulating in the community, Health Director Quintana Stewart says. She encourages residents to mask indoors during periods of high transmission, wash your hands often, give each other a little space and, most importantly, be sure you are up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations.

The health department offers both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and boosters. To make an appointment, please visit https://takemyshot.nc.gov or call (919) 913-8088 Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Spanish and other languages spoken.

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