United Way of Southeast Mississippi has launched the COVID-19 Relief Program to help households that are financially struggling because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The program provides households in Forrest, Lamar, Marion and Perry counties with monetary assistance for rent and utility bills. More than $29,000 has been distributed since the program started on May 11, said Kari Lynn Besing, the director of community impact for United Way.
“We began accepting applications online on May 11, and applications have steadily been coming in over the last few weeks,” she said. “We began raising funds and working with partner organizations to develop the program in late March.”
Donations for the program come from United Way Worldwide and local corporations and individuals.
Funds are also raised through T-shirt sales. The Mississippi Association of United Ways, a coalition of nine of the state’s United Way offices, created a T-shirt as part of their #BetterTogetherMS campaign.
All proceeds from T-shirt sales go to those in need of financial help during the pandemic.
So far, the program has helped 94 households across the four-county area. Besing said 298 individuals live within those households, and 145 of those residents are children.
To qualify for assistance, applicants must reside in one of those four counties and be able to prove they’ve lost employment or that their work hours have been reduced. A notification from their employer or unemployment office documentation is required.
Additionally, Besing said applicants must show that their rent or utility bills are past due at the time of their application.
Christian Services, Inc., a United Way partner agency located in downtown Hattiesburg, is screening applications and distributing the payments, she added.
Applicants should allow 5-7 business days for applications to be processed, and funds will be paid directly to a certified landlord or utility companies and not to the applicant.
“We will continue to provide this assistance as funds are available,” said Besing.
To donate to the program or purchase a T-shirt, visit www.unitedwaysems.org.