As Union County moved into 2022, residents were still feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to anyone who was recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Now, in April, residents are dealing with inflation, which is on the rise. As of February, inflation in the United States surged to a new 40-year high of 7.9%, driven by the surging costs for gas, food and housing.
“There are so many people in the community that are still looking for support and the County of Union is working hard to provide the necessary services and programs they may need,” said Commissioner Chair Rebecca Williams. “I would like our residents to know that the Commissioner Board is committed to helping those who need it, where we can, to alleviate any additional hardships they may be facing – from rental assistance to food distributions and employment opportunities.”
Beginning with the announcement of a zero percent tax increase in this year’s 2022 budget in March, the County of Union has been promoting their efforts in assisting residents of Union County in many different areas.
Last month, they announced the Union County Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which provides significant economic relief to help low and moderate-income households at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability by providing rental arrears, temporary rental and utility arrears assistance. Assistance is still available, residents can visit www.ucnj.org/rental-assitance to apply or for more information.
Since the start of the pandemic, Union County has held approximately 80 food distributions, providing assistance to nearly 35,000 households within Union County as they continue to deal with food insecurity. After a successful holiday food distribution last week, there will be another one for residents on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. at the Elizabeth Board of Education Parking Lot (across from 600 Pearl Street) in Elizabeth. This is a walk-up site. In addition, on Saturday, May 14, 2022 at 8:00 a.m. at Kean University in Union. This event is a drive-thru and residents must arrive in a vehicle.
“For most people, the high rise in inflation is making it harder for them to afford necessities like food, gas and rent and it is important that our residents in Union County know about all of the available resources and services there are in place to help them,” said Commissioner Sergio Granados, 2022 Fiscal Chair & Liaison to the Human Services Advisory Council. “Knowing that many people in our community are still struggling, it was really important to the County Commissioners that we have a zero percent tax increase for the third year in a row. After working with the County Manager and Department heads, we did just that. Even with a continuous no increase in taxes, the County of Union continues to maintain and strengthen the services our residents need and deserve. I hope all in our community look into these programs and initiatives and take advantage of them. We are here to help.”
Last week, the Union County Board of County Commissioners announced the launch of the “Empowering Our Youth” Summer Employment Program. Now open to applicants, this program is run by the Union County Division of Youth Services and is offered to County residents 16 through 24 years old.
This employment program is offering both full-time and part-time positions at various locations at $15 an hour. The “Empowering Our Youth” Summer Employment Program can provide uniforms, transportation, and childcare to those looking for summer jobs. The deadline to apply is Thursday, May 19, 2022. Applicants looking to view eligibility requirements or wishing to apply can do so by visiting ucnj.org/youth. Information can also be found by visiting the following locations in person at DYS Youth Forward, located at 1143-1145 E. Jersey St, 4th Floor in Elizabeth, the One-Stop Center at 921 Elizabeth Avenue in Elizabeth and the American Job Center at 200 W. 2nd St # 4 in Plainfield. For more information or if you have any questions regarding the “Empowering Our Youth” Summer Employment Program, please call Jasmine Sowah at 908-558-2523.
Also this month, the Union County Office on Aging and Disability Services resumed the Senior Nutrition Program at various locations throughout the county. The Congregate Nutrition Program provides participants with the opportunity to enjoy a balanced, nutritious lunch in the company of their friends and neighbors. For more information, please call the Union County Division on Aging/Nutrition Program at 908-527-4877 or 908-558-2297.
Meals on Wheels Union County is also being offered to residents who are homebound, such as elderly individuals or couples unable to prepare a nutritious, well balanced meal; individuals recovering from recent hospitalization or illness or any person 60 years of age or older, or anyone married to a person 60 years of age or older. This program is supported by a grant from Union County Division on Aging, client contributions, and donations from the general public and private organizations. For more information or to register for this program, please visit www.mowuc.org/ or call 908-486-5100.
The Division of Paratransit is also back up and running and provides transportation services for individual passengers for several trips including Route 22 Shuttle Bus, medical, shopping, employment, education or training, prescription pick-ups and other essential services. All reservations are limited to availability on a first come first served basis and transportation will be provided with limited passengers on each vehicle. Residents interested should call 908-241-8300 (Option 1) to make a reservation and schedule their trip.
To learn more about the different services, programs or events being held throughout all of the Departments and Divisions in Union County, please visit www.ucnj.org.