WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) The uncertainty of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown of much of the nations’s economy has lead to an increase in calls to social service agencies that are dealing with an unprecedented situation.
The United Way of the Wyoming Valley has dealt with the impacts of flooding, blizzards, 9/11 and recessions, but never a global pandemic.
“I mean there’s really no playbook for any of this but we are working hard together,” Bill Jones, CEO and President of United Way of the Wyoming Valley told Eyewitness News. “We are in contact with all our partners in assessing the emerging needs to assist where possible.”
Help comes to residents in the form of food or financial assistance. Representatives also provide information to people who don’t know where to turn.
“PA 211 Northeast has experienced a spike in calls. We started to see an increase in February and in the past week of March we are experiencing over 500 additional calls per week,” said Gert McGowan, CEO of Family Service Association of NEPA.
PA 211, commonly known as Helpline, operates out of a building on Market Street in downtown Wilkes-Barre. It acts as a clearing house of information and directs people to the social service agency that could help them out.
According to McGowan, 70% of the calls they’re receiving are not COVID-19 related.
“Right now a lot of questions about stimulus package, the checks that will be arriving as well as other business relief,” McGowan said. “Also, looking for some understanding of what the State Department of Health and CDC are recommending.”
Pat Ward, the CEO of United Way of Greater Hazleton says so far member agencies have been able to answer the calls for help.
“We are not seeing that many out of the ordinary requests for assistance and that means our agencies are all doing a great job as they do everyday and making sure they are ready to help people who need assistance in the area,” Ward told Eyewitness News.
All of the Social Service Agency officials say that they like everyone else, are planning as best they can but are taking it day by day.
For more information on various social services in the region, click here.