Hanging Tough in Hard Times

Susan Romaine


By Susan Romaine

“I am so proud of our Carrboro community, and the way we are supporting each other during this pandemic. The only way through this is together, one day at a time.” — Mayor Lydia Lavelle

COVID-19 has touched us all, in ways big and small. I think first about those who are sick, and those who live in fear of becoming infected. I worry about those who are laid off, furloughed or working fewer hours, and struggling to provide for themselves and their families. Sadly, those who are sick or unemployed are all too often poor and disproportionately people of color.

The coronavirus has taken its toll on many other members of our community, including:

  • Students, teachers and parents, tasked with the challenging transition to virtual classrooms, and graduating seniors, facing uncertainties about college and the job market;
  • Residents of long-term care facilities who are particularly at-risk but barred visitors during a time of isolation and loneliness;
  • Healthcare and childcare providers, grocery store employees, bus drivers, postal carriers, delivery workers risking their health to provide crucial services;
  • Those facing mental health or substance abuse challenges triggered by stress and uncertainty.

The Carrboro Town Council is still hard at work, though.

On March 24, Town Council approved $235,00 in emergency loans and grants to assist 12 local businesses and nonprofits that are in good standing with creditors, but low on capital to retain employees. The loans and grants are intended to serve as a bridge until larger amounts of federal and state government assistance become available.

A second round of emergency loans and grants totaling $235,000 will be awarded May 22 and distributed in early June.

We’re helping residents pay rent. On April 14, Town Council raised the maximum grant award for rental and utility deposit assistance from $1,000 to $2,000. With so many residents without a stable source of income during the stay-at-home order, the measure is another example of local government stepping up efforts to offer emergency financial aid for those in dire need.

The change brings Carrboro’s rental assistance program into greater alignment with those in Orange County, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, streamlining and simplifying the application process.

In partnership with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, the Town of Carrboro opened a new food distribution site at Carrboro High School on May 8. More than 270 local households were able to access a wide variety of locally sourced produce.

The new Carrboro site takes some of the pressure off the Chapel Hill Public Library, where more than 500 households are waiting in lines as long as two hours to access the free fresh produce at the weekly distributions.

We’ve relocated residents in shelters to nearby hotels. Working with Orange County and town governments, Carrboro-based Interfaith Council for Social Service recently relocated single adult shelter residents to a nearby hotel.

As many as 66 residents will have their own bedroom and bathroom, making it much easier to socially distance. IFC is staffing the hotel to support residents around-the-clock with meals and needed services.

We’re using our bully pulpit to support public health recommendations with proclamations urging social distancing and sheltering in place.

What matters most is our collective discipline in taking basic, everyday precautions to keep our neighbors safe: sheltering in place, wearing face coverings, washing hands and staying apart. We are seeing these precautions each and every day — on the bus, in the grocery store and on the walking trails — often accompanied by a nod of appreciation.

Now is not the time to ease up. Otherwise, we risk losing so many of our gains over these past two months. We owe it to the vulnerable in our community, and to the front-line healthcare workers and other essential workers.

Stay safe, stay healthy — and stay apart. And consider reaching out, virtually, to someone who may need assistance or a kind word.

Thank you for your continued sacrifice. I can’t wait to see you on the
other side.

Susan Romaine is a member of the Carrboro Town Council.

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