FRN Asks Reimbursement from County Commission of Revenues Lost Due to COVID
Laura, you have gone to the County Commission to ask for American Rescue Plan funds to replace money the FRN lost because of the COVID crisis. Can you explain?
“The Family Resource Network (FRN) started a social enterprise in 2019,” said Laura Young, Director of the Pocahontas County FRN. “And we did that in an effort to raise money that came to us that we could earn for ‘fee for service’ that could then be turned back out into the community as a gap filler for things that were not eligible for other state and federal funding. For instance, people can come to DHHR and they will have a shut-off notice on their heating. DHHR might have part of that money, but they don’t have it all. There is really no sense in paying half of somebody’s electric bill. They are going to shut it off anyway. The DHHR might pay half of that, and then the Family Resource Network can come in and pay the other half. So, all of the money that we earn under this social enterprise is a gap-filler for families in West Virginia.”
“Social enterprise allows Non-Profits to go into a fee for service and actually earn money that we can use for what we need it for. In 2019, when I started this, we entered into an agreement with the Department of Rehabilitation. They would give us authorization to help people in the community who had disabilities, but wanted a job. Those people would come in to us, and we would run them through a series of assessments, so that we could determine what type of jon they could be placed in. And, it was really more successful than I thought it would be when I started. Had it up and running, and we were really doing good, and then the pandemic hit and we lost an estimated $200,000 in ten-and-a-half months. That’s the money I am asking (the) County Commission to replace, because the County Commission has received American Rescue Plan funding. And in that legislation, it clearly says they can use that funding to replace lost public sector revenues that were lost that were a direct result of COVID-19. And our revenue losses were a direct result of COVID 19.”
So, when you asked me earlier what we would use the money for, just let me reiterate some of the programs that the Family Resource Network does. We feed families through a monthly Harvest House Food Pantry, and we also take mobile pantries into Green Bank once a month. We put winter coats and boots on children. We work with grandparents who are living on a fixed income and are raising their grandchildren, and we help them with just basic needs. We also offer safe-sleep options for our newborn infants in Pocahontas County, and we offer safe car seats for newborns. We also help people with shut-off notices on their electric; we help fill propane; we help with shut-off notices on water. We are also helping disabled people in Pocahontas County who want a job with job skills, and placement in jobs that pay a living wage. Those are all things we will continue to do.”
“We are out there working with the community. We are doing everything that we possibly can just to keep these programs up and running for our families. We feel it’s really necessary.”
Laura, do you think that the County Commissioners will understand that the $200,000 you are asking for from the American Rescue Plan will be a lifeline for many low-income members of our community, and provide you with those funds you lost during the COVID crisis?
“When I talk to them, it seems like maybe they don’t know exactly they can spend the money on. So, they called Senator Manchin’s Office and they spoke with Andrew Robinson, who clearly said the FRN could be considered. I am hoping that as they dig deeper into this and they get more requests and they try and wrap their mind around what this money can be used for, that they will realize that lost revenues is something they can consider. And I hope that they fund us.”
“Sometimes when I hear people talk about duplication of services – and that is one thing Commissioner Helmick always wants to talk to me about. In most instances, a number of organizations that provide similar or same services or services to the same population, are all trying to address a need that is greater than all of them working together can solve. So, it is not necessarily a duplication of services, we may all serve the same people.”
Thanks for your service to your community Laura. In part two of our FRN story, we will let you hear from members of the community, who will talk about what the FRN means to the community.