Food Access Tops Trumbull Outbreak Concerns

WARREN, Ohio – Access to food during the coronavirus pandemic was the top concern in Trumbull County, followed by help with rent or mortgage payments and access to childcare, a survey by United Way of Trumbull County showed.

The United Way chapter recently surveyed more than 2,000 Trumbull County businesses and residents to determine what were seen as the greatest needs in the county as a result of the pandemic.

“These times are especially challenging for the 49% of the families in Trumbull County who are working hard every day, but unable make afford the basics of housing, food, child care, health care and transportation,” said Ginny Pasha, the Trumbull County United Way’s president and CEO. “These individuals and families are those who are now the most vulnerable due to actions taken to stem the spread of COVID-19.”

Unsurprisingly, the survey showed that 70.6% of the respondents felt access to food was their top concern, Pasha said.

“Many of the Trumbull County school districts are providing meals to their students even though the schools are closed and some school districts will keep their food pantries open. Several partner agencies are continuing to make sure their participants receive food while keeping staff safe,” she said.

According to the survey, help with rent or mortgage payments was the second most frequently cited issue, with 72.2% of respondents feeling like a change in their employment status brought about by COVID-19 was of a concern. United Way’s partner agencies report that they already are seeing an uptick in requests for assistance.

The third most-cited concern was access to child care, with 63.4% of respondents expressing a need.

“For many who are working, and who must work to avoid slipping into poverty, they need to know that their school-age children are safe,” Pasha said. “With the mandate to close both schools and recreation centers, parents may have no alternative other than to stay home from work themselves or risk leaving children on their own.”

Financial assistance ranked among the top five concerns, with 60% responding that it was an issue. Many of the workers idled by closures related to the coronavirus outbreak may require help to pay utilities, insurances, increased child-care expenses, transportation costs and additional food and cleaning supplies.

Cleaning supplies – named by 40.7% of respondents – rounded out the top five concerns. Such supplies are not available for purchase using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits but are critical to keeping a family healthy and stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

The comments section in the survey identified other issues, such as the cascade effect from the loss of employment. School districts overwhelmingly reported a need for technology in the form of devices, internet cards or access to hot spots, with most districts providing education in an online format. Many of the county’s rural areas lack internet service and some families may be unable to purchase service because of the expense or poor credit history.

“United Way of Trumbull County understands that many individuals and families have been affected by the outbreak already and more will continue to be affected. We are working with our partner agencies and area school districts to help meet these needs,” Pasha said. While funding from campaign donors has supported several front-line initiatives for years programs are seeing “a significant uptick in demand” because of the outbreak, she continued.

Donations to United Way of Trumbull County’s COVID-19 Community Relief Fund can be made to or by texting TRUMBULL to 41444. All gifts to this fund will be used to help children and families in Trumbull County.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.