Burlington County residents met with government agencies and social-service providers on Nov. 8 to learn about COVID rental, mortgage and utility-assistance programs at the county Human Services Facility.
The Housing and Utility Assistance Fair, hosted by the Burlington County Commissioners, the county Department of Human Services and Congressman Andy Kim, provided residents with access to housing-related resources. Staff members helped residents fill out applications and forms for aid.
Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson praised Kim and the human services department for providing and distributing financial assistance to needy families.
“More than $13 million in emergency rental assistance has already gone (out) to over 1,700 Burlington County residents,” she noted. “That’s the best record of any county in the state.”
The assistance fair was also the first of its kind for the county.
“This (type) of event, it’s really about trying to let as many people know about what resources are out there (as possible),” said Kim. “I’ll continue to do my best to be able to try to get as much resources back to our community, but it’s about connecting those dots.”
Participating agencies for the fair included the Burlington County Housing Hub, Servicios Latinos de Burlington County, Oaks Integrated Care, Volunteers of America and the Burlington County Office of Community Development and Housing.
According to Malikah Morris, director of community outreach and special projects for Burlington County, the office of community development and housing provided information on mortgage assistance, home repairs, emergency heat, and a first-time home buyers’ program that helps with down payments and closing costs.
Residents also learned about the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program and the county’s Emergency Mortgage and Utility Assistance Program. Both can help households financially impacted by the pandemic with rent or mortgage payments.
Commissioner Deputy Director Dan O’Connell spoke about the work the county has been doing during the pandemic and how the fair brought out more people than expected.
“Since COVID hit, we’ve been focused on helping our residents,” he noted. “Not only through the health-care aspect (of this), but through economic development and the people that are some (of) our most vulnerable in the county, to make sure they didn’t fall through the cracks. Quite frankly, we were amazed at the number of people that showed up.”
“We hear stories about how the economy (is) improving or things are getting better,” O’Connell added. “The number of people here who showed up to look for services speaks volumes, so we’re glad that we did this.”
Kim spoke on the importance of letting people know that they are not alone during tough times.
“We are here to help,” he said. “We know it’s tough to navigate and there’s challenges (there), which is exactly why we’re trying to have an opportunity like this for people to be able to have a one stop shop.
“We’re hoping that we can be able to keep up (some) of this type of effort,” Kim added, “but I think the main thing is making sure people know that there are places they can turn to when they need help.”
The congressman also addressed the work that needs to be done for those who are struggling.
“Am I proud of the support we’ve been able to provide so far?” he said. “Yes, but there’s never a time in this type (of) work where you can spike the football (or) say that we’re done. I think that that’s what I feel about (just) the severity of this moment, is just how tough it is.”
“Frankly, it was tough for folks even before the pandemic, and now it’s even worse,” Kim added. “This is just one of those situations where I’m just going to have to keep trying to get more and (more) for the community as much as I can. Events like this really hit home to me.”