One could say that GRACE Client Services functions as the auditory and visual systems here at GRACE. Marcela Melendez, Client Services Manager, and her team of caseworkers, are at the forefront of hearing from people directly affected by COVID-19. They have felt clients’ pain, concern, and fear as more people express challenges faced by being laid off and other uncertainties COVID-19 has created.
For many who come to GRACE for assistance, Client Services is their entry point to get plugged into one of the many services that GRACE offers. Case managers work with clients to find their way out of crisis and back to self-sufficiency.
In years past, March, April, and May have tended to be slower months as families could count on good weather and tax returns to help with bills and provide some financial relief. However, with the unemployment rate at record highs, Marcela and her team know that many families will need lots of long-term assistance.
With current circumstances, GRACE’s Client Services also finds itself in a unique situation as case managers practice social distancing while providing individualized services to those seeking help. As a program, it has to rethink all its methods of delivery and service. This has been a challenging task. Interviews usually completed in person must now be done by phone, which creates difficulties in collecting vital documents, providing vouchers for services, and giving resources and instructions needed for other assistance.
Even with all the limitations, caseworkers continue to provide interviews with everyone who calls seeking assistance. The need for rent and other financial aid has just about tripled. Food and other necessities like medication are also a concern for those who now have no income.
With a growing number of calls, the caseworkers strive to remain informed in this ever-changing landscape of information and resources.