Imperial County Obtains Key Grants
By Darren Simon
Special Contributor for the Joint Information Center
The Imperial County Area Agency on Aging has been working to obtain critical grant funding to help serve the needs of the Valley’s senior population, including older adults who are homeless, through this period of challenges brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. That funding is helping provide additional meals daily for seniors and funding for shelter.
“We were granted permission to immediately address the meals needed for older adults,” said Rosie Blankenship, county public administrator and director for the Area Agency on Aging.
That permission came from the California Department of Aging, and to provide the additional meals, the county obtained an $89,000 state grant under the COVID-19 Senior Nutrition Funding program.
With that funding in place, the county has contracted with two local restaurants, Brownie’s Diner in Brawley and Rosa’s Plane Food in Calexico. These restaurants will be providing meals daily to bolster the existing nutrition program contracted through Catholic Charities.
Under the program, Brownie’s will supply more than 80 hot meals in the North County to seniors seven days a week, and Rosa’s will provide more than 60 meals in the Calexico area Monday through Friday and frozen meals for the weekends. Each of the restaurants is handling the delivery of the meals under their contract with the county.
“We’ll be doing this until the pandemic has passed,” Blankenship said, adding: “We had to do this to meet the influx of calls we were getting into our program.”
Additionally, the county has obtained state funding through the Homeless Emergency Assistance Program in the amount of $44,850 and another $33,803 through the Imperial Valley Continuum of Care Executive Board, which oversees efforts to support the local homeless population.
This funding has provided the Public Administrator/Area Agency on Aging the ability to work with local hotels to shelter homeless residents 55 and older who meet certain conditions established under guidelines related to the Coronavirus. Those guidelines include whether they’ve been infected with COVID-19, whether they are 65 and older and have underlying health issues that put them at risk, whether they’ve been exposed (but not infected) to the virus, or face living conditions that put them at risk.
When calls are fielded by the Department of Social Services regarding the homeless—whether such calls for help come from individuals or agencies—if the seniors meet the criteria for help, Blankenship’s department will work with local hotels to provide shelter. Separate funding to the county’s Workforce Development Board is helping to provide housing for younger homeless individuals.
To date, Blankenship said, (as of Friday, April 17) her department has placed 26 seniors at area hotels, she added that two individuals have tested positive for the Coronavirus and are in quarantine. They have all been placed because of underlying health issues.
Along with funding for additional meals and housing, Blankenship said her department is seeking grant funding that would assist the elderly with grocery shopping and pharmaceutical needs. Should the grants be awarded, she said, the county will work with grocery stores and pharmacies to provide deliveries to those who cannot venture from their homes and provide funding support to help seniors with purchasing groceries.
Blankenship said it is important to continue the efforts to seek grant funds as a way to expand service.
“If we want to help specific target populations, we have to look for new grants,” she said.