United Way launches relief fund

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

NAUGATUCK — The United Way of Naugatuck & Beacon Falls has established a relief fund to help residents affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to come up with a way for those impacted to bridge the gap as best as we can,” said Jon Farmer, a Naugatuck resident and member of the United Way’s board of directors who spearheaded the effort to create the fund.

United Way of Naugatuck & Beacon Falls Executive Director Lisa Shappy said the relief fund will provide immediate assistance to people for basic needs and support community organizations that run programs to help those in need.

Applicants must be residents of Naugatuck or Beacon Falls who were laid off or had their wages reduced on or after March 13 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The United Way is capping assistance at $300 for residents and $1,000 for community organizations, she said.

As a regional sales manager for Cisco Systems, Inc., a technology company based in California that has offices across the country, Farmer said he saw the economic impact COVID-19 had on other countries, like China, before the coronavirus hit the U.S.

As a United Way board member, Farmer knows about the struggles some people face in the community, including those that fall into the ALICE category. ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed, represents people who are working but struggle to pay for basic needs.

With applications for unemployment compensation in Connecticut skyrocketing, Farmer said the United Way wants to make sure there is a safety net in place to assist people that have been affected financially by the pandemic.

Even though the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls is a small agency, Farmer said it’s important for people to understand the impact the organization has on the two communities. Much of the money raised by the United Way directly benefits people and organizations in Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, he said.

Farmer helped get the relief fund started with a personal donation of $5,000. Cisco Systems matched his donation, he said, giving the United Way $10,000 in seed money for the fund.

“He believes in the community and wants to do all he can to make it a better place for everyone,” Shappy said about Farmer.

The United Way is also running a fundraiser on Facebook — which raised $3,555 in donations as of April 9 — and has about $13,000 in its direct assistance fund, giving the organization about $27,000 as of last week to distribute through the relief fund.

Shappy said the United Way will help pay for services and basic needs, including rent, utilities and groceries. The United Way won’t give people money directly, she explained. For instance, the United Way will pay a landlord for someone who needs help paying rent or provide a gift card to help someone buy groceries.

Shappy said the organization will provide assistance through May 31 or until there’s no money left in the relief fund.

Residents must apply for assistance. For information or an application, call the United Way office at 203-729-1564.