| Person-to-Person supports Connecticut residents despite COVID-19
As the coronavirus continues to present challenges for American citizens, non-profit organization Person-to-Person provides assistance to Connecticut residents impacted by the pandemic.
The pandemic is more than just a health crisis. The economic collapse caused by the virus left millions of Americans unemployed and struggling to pay for rent, mortgages, utilities, childcare, medical care, food and more. In an Aug. 4 report, The Connecticut Department of Labor estimated that the Connecticut unemployment rate has averaged 9.2% over the past three months. However, the Office of Research suggests that this rate is much higher, between 16-17%. According to the report, the agency has received over 750,000 unemployment applications since March 13, 2020.
Founded in Darien, Connecticut, non-profit organization P2P has been serving the community members of Lower Fairfield County since 1968. In the years that it has been operating, P2P has been dedicated to helping people in times of need. The organization offers food, clothing, and financial assistance for people who need help with rent payments, security deposits, utilities, and other unexpected expenses like medical and childcare costs.
P2P now has three locations throughout Fairfield County in Darien, Stamford, and Norwalk. In a typical year, the organization serves about 25,000 Connecticut residents through the programs it provides. This year, P2P Chief Executive Officer Nancy Coughlin expects this number to be much larger.
“We’re providing much more assistance than we did before the pandemic, so the need for our services has increased,” she said. “That is what has really been the biggest impact on our programs.”
In addition, all of the organization’s services have become contactless, and precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of the staff, volunteers, and clients.
“We miss being able to have more face-to-face contact with our clients, but we’re able to serve more people than we ever have before, and we’re able to do it with safe protocols,” Coughlin said.
The financial assistance program has been especially impacted by the coronavirus. According to Coughlin, the program is serving about twice as many people as it usually does.
“We also increased the amount of assistance that we give each household, so we’re providing about four times as much financial assistance as we normally would because of the pandemic,” she said.
Although Governor Ned Lamont’s executive order allowed a 60-day grace period for rent payments due April and May, many Connecticut residents still struggled to make ends meet. P2P helped ease this stress for the Connecticut residents who became P2P clients during the pandemic. According to a June 24 note written by Coughlin, over a third of those seeking food assistance and 40% of those in search of financial aid after COVID-19-related closures were new clients.
In April, the organization launched a new program called Door2Door, which helps safely deliver groceries to the homes of anyone impacted by the pandemic with the help of volunteer drivers. At the peak of the organization’s demand, they were providing food to about 240 families per day. The organization intends to keep Door2Door as a permanent program.
In an interview conducted by the organization, P2P volunteer Tom Olson spoke about his efforts to help residents of Fairfield County through the new program.
As quoted in the article, Olson said, “When the pandemic closed the school down, I looked for new opportunities to give, while remaining safe. I reached out to Meals on Wheels and Person to Person. Fortunately, they both needed contactless grocery delivery drivers.”
In another interview conducted by the organization, P2P client and single mom Denise from Stamford, CT talks about how she has been impacted by the pandemic and what the organization program has done to improve her situation after she was furloughed by her job working in a school cafeteria.
As quoted in the article, Denise said, “Things as a single mom are hard enough when you’re working. Now it feels almost impossible.”
P2P’s Door2Door program has been especially helpful for Denise. “I’m so grateful for the deliveries from P2P – they’ve meant less trips to the store, which had become so difficult. They’re helping me keep my kids safe.”
At the start of the pandemic, Coughlin estimates that the organization lost about 90% of its volunteers.
“A lot of our volunteers are retired so many of them, rightfully so, opted to stay home during the pandemic,” Coughlin said. As a volunteer-based organization, this sudden decline in volunteers meant that P2P was trying to do more work with fewer people. In addition to losing volunteers, the organization also lost a majority of food donations after the food drives it relies on were canceled.
According to Coughlin, Person-to-Person raises almost all of its budget by donations from the community.
“We’ve been fortunate that the community has been very generous to us, but there’s a lot of work that happens by non-profits like P2P and it’s going to be very challenging for the non-profit sector to continue addressing the needs that we’re seeing right now through funding by community donations,” she said. “As more people lose their jobs, there are fewer people that can fund this work. Volunteer, donation and additional information is available at p2phelps.org.