Summit County is helping low-income residents and residents in need with laptops, wireless internet hot spots, diapers, home improvements and assistance with facing the “benefits cliff.”
Summit County Council last week passed resolutions to direct more than $2 million in federal funds to various programs and services.
The county’s Department of Job and Family Services is purchasing 500 laptops and facilitating T-Mobile wireless hot spot internet connectivity for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families-eligible residents.
The devices aim to address the growing “digital divide” low-income families in the county are experiencing. The improved digital access is meant to help people search and apply for jobs, participate in virtual education and connect with health care providers.
Progressive Alliance Community Development Corp., a West Akron nonprofit organization, will coordinate device distribution and technical support.
County Council approved a resolution to purchase 500 Acer TravelMate laptops from CDW Government for $130,500 using TANF funds and a $383,985 TANF agreement with T-Mobile for the wireless hot spot internet connectivity services, with a $91,000 TANF agreement with the Progressive Alliance CDC for distribution and coordination of the devices and services.
“The pandemic heightened the already growing digital divide in Summit County and the entire nation. As workers and students headed home from their offices and classrooms, we saw the inequity in digital access and the disadvantages it created,” Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro said. “Providing laptops and hot spots to families in need will help them overcome these disadvantages and create meaningful opportunities for children and parents.”
To be eligible for help through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, residents must meet income guidelines, be unemployed or underemployed and have a child 18 or younger, be pregnant or be 18 years or younger and the head of their household.
Helping address the ‘benefits cliff’
Council approved a $500,000 TANF agreement with the Akron Urban League to provide employment preparedness/placement and benefits cliff support services for TANF-eligible families.
The benefits cliff refers to the decrease in public benefits, like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Medicaid and child care, that occurs due to minor increases in household earnings. Benefit losses often aren’t offset by new earnings, making it difficult to maintain employment, the county said.
Participants in the Urban League program will receive support to transition to employment via an intensive case management model, which includes job readiness training, career assessment, job training/certification, financial literacy/budgeting, barrier removal support services (such as referral services, transportation, child care and work uniforms/tools/supplies), employer engagement, job placement, job coaching/mentoring and up to 18 months of job retention monitoring.
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Summit County diaper bank, home improvements
In partnership with Summit County Public Health and Full Term First Birthday, Job and Family Services is creating a countywide diaper bank for TANF-eligible families. With $75,000 of TANF funds, the partners will coordinate distribution of diapers, wipes and pull-ups for families in need. They will also distribute diapers, child safety items and parenting essentials at community resource fairs in the county for pregnant women and parents.
The county’s Department of Community and Economic Development is set to receive $1.4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Health and Human Services for the Home Weatherization Assistance Program. The funds will help provide home improvements, including new furnaces, hot water tanks and insulation, to low-income residents of the county, which expects to complete a minimum of 131 home improvements with the funds this year.
“People need help now more than ever,” Shapiro said. “Since the pandemic began, we have been listening to the needs of our residents and doing our best to provide support. These investments represent Summit County’s commitment to helping all people move forward to better circumstances and opportunities.”
Council previously approved $250,000 and $200,000 TANF agreements with Greenleaf Family Center to provide child safety education services and distribute child safety and basic needs items to pregnant women and parents of young children, and to provide automotive repairs and related services to recently employed TANF-eligible clients, respectively.
Council also previously approved purchasing 800 HP Chromebooks from CDW Government for $208,000 to again address the digital divide, with 350 to the Summer Youth Education Program; 250 to the Building Opportunities for Sustained Success (BOSS) program; and 200 to work-required adults receiving cash assistance with minor children.
The county also has used TANF money to fund Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) program services for students in third through sixth grades for the Akron Urban League; entrepreneurship summer camp services and STEAM summer enrichment camp services for Emmanuel Christian Academy; and summer camp reimbursement services for the Early Childhood Resource Center.
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To apply for TANF assistance, visit summitdjfs.org/resources/apply-over-the-phone.html. To apply for HWAP assistance, visit co.summitoh.net/pages/HWAP.html.