By DAVIS CARBAUGH
The (La Grande) Observer
LA GRANDE — In difficult times, a community-based organization is providing some relief to families impacted by COVID-19.
Northeast Oregon Network, a nonprofit based in La Grande, provides support to families whose incomes are impacted by a quarantine or isolation by offering grocery gift cards and other services. Funded by the Oregon Health Authority and other partners, the nonprofit health collaborative aims to provide financial and non-financial support to families in need.
“We just want to help people make it through their quarantine or isolation safely because it’s a really stressful time,” Executive Director Liberty Avila said.
The Oregon Health Authority began funding the program in July 2020, while the Center for Human Development, La Grande, also works with the organization on a local basis. According to Avila, Northeast Oregon Network has assisted roughly 300 families with groceries and other services since the start of the pandemic. The organization’s outreach spreads across Union, Baker and Wallowa counties.
For families in need due to quarantine, the program can provide up to $120 in grocery gift cards per family member. Northeast Oregon Network also helps families retrieve their groceries if necessary, transport family members to medical facilities, run errands as needed and other means of service.
“We’re just trying to fill those gaps that are hard to fill, especially when you’re stuck at home,” Avila said.
Families in need
There is no needs-based testing for families looking to utilize the NEON program, which aims primarily to help families that are greatly affected by a loss of income due to staying in quarantine.
The intake forms specifically state that the family needs to be in isolation due to COVID-19 or contact with someone that has COVID-19. The program seeks to help families that do not receive sick time through their job or are losing significant income because of testing positive for COVID-19.
“It’s limited to people who are in isolation or quarantine, not just generally folks that need help unfortunately,” Avila said. “But, we can help people sign up for the vaccine or help navigate resources and help them figure out how they can get rental assistance and other things.”
In order to request financial assistance in the form of grocery gift cards, families can reach out to the county’s WRAP services at 541-962-1610 or firstname.lastname@example.org, which will connect them with Northeast Oregon Network. However, Avila said the majority of families come directly through case investigation and contact tracing.
“One of the questions they ask is if you need services to be able to stay in quarantine,” Avila said. “That’s when a referral might get made. They might, with your consent, send your information to our coordinator, Sandy, and she might reach out directly.”
With the recent COVID-19 spike, more and more families are affected by hardships related to loss of income from staying in quarantine. Northeast Oregon Network is aiming to help families in need financially, but the scope of their assistance has been limited since the start of the pandemic.
“There were other times where we could pay bills and things like that, but we had budget constraints to work with and we aren’t able to do that anymore,” Avila said.
The nonprofit seeks to aid families dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic, with around-the-clock responses.
“We want people to feel safe when they quarantine,” Avila said, “and we’re also trying to stop the spread by making sure families quarantine.”