The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, exasperating hardships and creating new challenges each day. While this situation isn’t easy, we can draw comfort from those in our community who are helping. As Fred “Mister” Rogers once famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Now more than ever is a time to accept help and to assist those who are helping. Whether you’re in need of support yourself or looking to lend a hand, these organizations and opportunities in Northern New Jersey are available.
Get Support from the Government
The local government has stepped in to support families and individuals experiencing financial hardship during this challenging time.
If your work has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Keep in mind that New Jersey’s system has been overwhelmed with requests so try to file a claim online or call during off-peak hours. For more information, click here.
Food, Cash or Healthcare Assistance
New Jersey has programs to provide food (SNAP), cash (WFNJ/TANF or WFNJ/GA), and health Insurance (NJ FamilyCare/Medicaid) to those who qualify. To find out if you or your family is eligible, visit NJHelps.
Housing is typically a family or individual’s largest expense and therefore creates even more financial stress during COVID-19.
On March 19, 2020 Governor Murphy issued Executive Order No. 106 which prevents evictions or foreclosures during this public health emergency. Additionally, national banks including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America have committed to putting a hold on foreclosure sales or eviction proceedings for at least 60 days. You can also apply for a 90-day grace period on your mortgage without any negative credit impact.
The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Financing Authority (NJHMFA) also suspended all rent increases (applicable for 36,000 rental units) for low-and-middle income New Jersey residents.
To find out if you are eligible for additional housing assistance, visit the DCA’s screening process here.
If you’re unable to pay your heating or cooling bill, you can apply for Home Energy Assistance here.
Thousands of students rely on school meals. As a direct response to this crisis, local school districts have set up pick-up locations, with additional locations added to serve families without cars.
Support from Nonprofits
In addition to support from the government, local nonprofits are here to support you during this challenging time.
Food pantries have adjusted their protocol and created processes to make getting food safer during the coronavirus outbreak. Use this tool to search by location and find a food pantry near you.
Veteran or Military Support
If you’re a military family or veteran, you may also be experiencing unprecedented challenges. Operation Homefront offers critical financial support to military families and is still accepting applications as usual.
Mental Health Support
Mental health conditions and emotional distress may be heightened during this time of stress. New Jersey Mental Health Cares has a hotline available seven days a week.
Lend a Helping Hand
Healthcare workers across the state are experiencing a shortage in blood donations as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. If you are healthy, haven’t and looking for a way to lend a hand, a blood donation is a great option.
- American Red Cross – visit the website to set up an appointment near you
- Hunterdon Healthcare System: To donate blood, call 908-788-6405 to schedule an appointment
Foster or Adopt a Pet
During times of economic hardship, many families have no choice but to part with their pets. This may cause overcrowding in shelters in the near future. Consider fostering or adopting a pet (or prepare to do so when shelters re-open to the public). If welcoming a new furry family member isn’t feasible, consider making a donation.
- Liberty Humane Society (open for private appointments)
- Bergen County Animal Shelter (currently closed for adoptions)
- Pet ResQ Inc.
- Paws Montclair
- North Jersey Community Animal Shelter
Keep your donations local to make a direct impact on your local community. Here’s a list of nonprofits in the area that will benefit immensely from your support.
- New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund was set up by New Jersey first lady to fight the medical, social, and economic impact of the virus
- Donate funds or food to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey to keep up with increased demand
- Salvation Army of New Jersey to help families in poverty
- The Arc of New Jersey to support children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities
- The ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Recovery Fund via the United Way of Northern New Jersey
- The Community COVID-19 Fund has been established by the United Way of Greater Newark to apply funds to the community where they’re needed most
- Masks for our Heroes is making masks for local heroes who need them the most
- The COVID-19 Rapid Relief Fund has been established by the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation
There are ways to contribute to local organizations by volunteering virtually or safely. Organizations looking for volunteers include:
- Team Rubicon launched it’s #NeighborsHelpingNeighbors initiative
- Jersey Cares has virtual volunteer opportunities
- Taproot Foundation connects virtual volunteers with nonprofits
By coming together during this challenging time, we will emerge stronger. Help the helpers and accept help if you need it. We’re all in this together.