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Local COVID-19 Fund Gets $250,000 From State

The United Way of Champaign County has received a $250,000 grant from the State of Illinois to use for COVID-19 relief.

Sue Grey is the group’s president and CEO. She said one area the United Way hopes to address with the grant funding is food insecurity, particularly with households who qualify for the federal government’s free and reduced school lunch program.

“The school districts are already providing, like, breakfast and lunch,” Grey said, “but that still leaves other meals that are not taken care of on the weekends, in the evenings, and how can we support the entire family?”

She said the United Way of Champaign County and Community Foundation of East Central Illinois are working together on the COVID-19 Relief Fund. She said both organizations contributed $50,000 of “seed money,” and have raised an additional $70,000 from donors.

Illinois Newsroom’s Brian Moline spoke with Grey about the COVID-19 Relief Fund during Morning Edition. You can hear their conversation below:

Brian Moline talks with Sue Grey, President and CEO of the United Way of Champaign County.

Here are a few highlights from their conversation:

On $20,000 being distributed for housing relief:

“We already have an existing working relationship with the Regional Planning Commission and the townships of City of Champaign and Cunningham Township, which covers Urbana. And Regional Planning is countywide. They already had systems in place to be able to pay landlords on behalf of the tenant. Their job is to provide that general assistance, and so what we did, is we said, ‘would you be willing to help with this rent assistance?’ That’s the direction we went first because we heard from our partners that this was a great need for people. So that first wave of funding went out to Regional Planning, and they’ll work with the two township offices. They started a hotline last Friday, and from the minute they opened to the minute they stopped on Friday, the phones were busy. Now the township offices are working with those individuals, and RPC is taking care of the rural communities and working countywide, and helping those individuals make those April rent payments. I have not doubt the initial $20,000 that we assigned to that will be out the door or is already accounted for.”

On money being distributed for learn-at-home supplies for schoolchildren:

“There are many children in Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding areas that are eligible for free-and-reduced lunch. We thought it might be nice, and we talked to the school districts about this, ‘do these kids have everything they need while they’re at home to do that home learning?’ It was brought to our attention that, no, they did not. But, the school districts had the capability of ordering these kits in a large quantity, which reduced the price, and we were able to support several thousand students with right around $6000 for Champaign, Urbana, and Rantoul, and we’re getting ready to add Mahomet to that list as well.”

Grey also said she expects an additional round of housing relief to be made available for those who need help paying their May rent. You can find more information on giving to the COVID-19 Relief Fund here, and if you need assistance, you can find more information about available resources here.

Brian Moline

Brian Moline

Brian Moline is the Managing Editor of Illinois Newsroom and host of Morning Edition for Illinois Public Media/WILL. He's been with WILL since 2015, after a long stint at WDWS-AM in Champaign where he covered both news and sports for more than a decade. If you have story or interview ideas, you can reach Brian at bmoline@illinois.edu.

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