The program is open to anyone who lives in the county or provided care for a county resident between March 1, 2020 and March 7, 2022.
By Matt Skoufalos | August 23, 2022
Although the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic battered the entire planet for nearly two solid years, few groups were hit as hard as those working in direct care services.
Professional staff at nursing homes, hospice centers, and long- and short-term care facilities spent untold hours putting their personal safety on the line to provide direct care to people whose basic needs would otherwise go unmet.
Still countless others left the jobs to care for friends and loved ones, foregoing their own needs to pick up the slack for those closest to them, often at personal cost.
In acknowledgment of their commitment to the most vulnerable residents of the region during the pandemic, the Camden County government launched a grant program that will release some $1.2 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars to eligible caregivers.
Through the Camden County Caregiver Relief Program, caregivers have the opportunity to apply for $1,000 in grant funds as a give-back for their efforts.
Those who qualify for the funds must be Camden County residents or those who provide care to Camden County residents.
They must demonstrate that they have delivered at least 500 hours of hands-on healthcare or essential day-to-day support to seniors, and/or adults or children with intellectual, physical, and developmental disabilities or brain injuries in the two years between March 1, 2020 and March 7, 2022.
The award is available to private caregivers as well as those who work in the field.
Camden County Communications Director Dan Keashen said the program is believed to be the first of its kind to offer COVID-19 relief support directly to caregivers.
Keashen said the electronic grant system received nearly 700 applicants in the first six hours it went live.
“Obviously, there is a need to be able to provide some kind of fund for individuals who have been on the front lines of this thing and gone above and beyond, and individuals who’ve been home with a family member, taking care of them,” he said.
In addition to the $1.2 million initially allocated for the program, Keashen said the county government has earmarked nearly $8 million more to back it up, if demand arises. That’s more than 10 percent of the $89 million in ARP funds it received from the federal government.
“We know this is something that will be popular,” he said.
The money may be especially dear to professionals who work in a field where the national average salary is $15 per hour, and who may work for multiple employers to make ends meet.
Keashen said that caregivers are among several sectors to which the county has dedicated its ARP money, including rental assistance ($25 million), small business support ($12 million), support for nonprofit agencies ($8 million), and hospital healthcare.
“We are obligated to encumber the money by 2024 and spend it by 2026, so we still have some programs in the future that we’re taking a look at,” he said.
For more information about the Camden County Caregiver Grant, call 856-389-6704 during weekday business hours, or visit camdencountycaregrant.com.
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