Michael Bellis

Michael Bellis, executive director for United Way of Charles County, spoke to Southern Maryland News on Wednesday about the Charles County COVID-19 Relief Collaborative.

The Charles County Relief Collaborative, an effort between local government and community nonprofits, is underway in the county to mitigate the financial detriment imposed by COVID-19 and aide struggling families.

Charles nonprofits involved in the effort include the United Way of Charles County, LifeStyles of Maryland Inc. and The Salvation Army. Services include aiding in mortgages, burial costs, medical bills and court advocacy.

During a presentation last week to the Charles board of commissioners, Corea Young, assistant director for LifeStyles of Maryland, said a main focus is assisting families who are facing COVID-19 related evictions.

During the presentation to the board, Therese Wolf, director of social services in Charles County, said a reason for the collaborative is reducing duplication of efforts.

“Between the six of us who are involved, we all touch on a variety of individuals and families that are facing eviction,” she said, noting redundancy of efforts has been reduced.

“That has allowed us to make sure we have a ‘no wrong door’ approach,” she told the board. “We are sharing all of our processes for how we address individuals who are needing assistance. ... We can conduct a brief assessment on who can best help them.”

Sandy Washington, executive director of LifeStyles of Maryland, told Southern Maryland News in an interview last week that the effort is not a solo mission. “Together, we need to look at how we can address this.”

“LifeStyles kind of worked as the catalyst to coordinate with a couple of our commissioners early on,” she said. Through that coordination, a collaboration to bring in key partners was achieved and a spreadsheet was made to avoid duplications in services.

Michael Bellis, executive director for United Way of Charles County, told Southern Maryland News the nonprofit is providing up to three months of rental assistance for families directly impacted by the virus.

“We are typically not a housing provider,” he said, adding that, “We don’t do homeless services. ... But we had an opportunity to apply for, and subsequently won, a decent sized community development block grant.”

Bellis explained that after winning the monies, the nonprofit was able to provide the rental assistance to families who may have been furloughed, laid off or had working hours reduced.

“We’ve always been very interested in housing affordability in the broad sense, but we’ve not had the ability to impact that area,” he said on their mission. “What’s nice is [the grant] is allowing us to serve.”

The United Way team is currently in the process of accepting applications, getting compliance pieces in order and advertising through the Charles County COVID-19 Relief Collaborative, spreading a message of hope and aide during this crisis.

“We have done initial screenings on 45 people already,” he said on the programs launch. “Many of them are not going to be able to receive the funds due to the number of restrictions. ... But we are currently working our way through the referrals and trying to screen families and ensure they don’t face homelessness.”

Bellis urged that individuals in need of assistance may email the team at programs@unitedwaycharles.org. This will connect individuals with the program manager, Betsy Burian.

“She can help with any questions that folks may have,” Bellis said.

“We’re really honored to be in this position to serve these families, and to partner with folks.” he said, mentioning the nonprofits involved all have a common goal; to serve families.

“Landlords are still going to be owed money. ... We want to make sure we diminish the impact of that tidal wave as much as possible,” he said.

Twitter: @MorganSoMdNews

Twitter: @MorganSoMdNews