BRAG offers help amid COVID-19 crisis

The Bear River Association of Governments located at 170 N. Main St. Has several programs hat can benefit families struggling during th eCOVID-19 pandemic.

LOGAN – Lucas Martin, Director of Human Services for the Bear River Association of Governments, spends his days trying to help people in dire situations. If people need help paying rent, finding a place to live or even paying for heating Martin is the guy with the answers.

A file picture of Lucas Martin a BRAG Human Services Specialist helps a patron with an application for heat assistance.

The BRAG offices located at 170 North Main in Logan is closed due the pandemic, but people can still get the help they need by going to their Facebook page and clicking on links to apply for help. If Facebook isn’t an option, you can call the BRAG office at (435) 752-7242 to have them mail out an application, schedule a time to pick one up, or arrange for a phone appointment.

The organization has programs to help people through these troubling COVID-19 pandemic times. They have several services people can use to ease their financial burdens and can also make referrals to additional services.

Martin said for those families with school-aged children who signed up for free and reduced lunch there is a program that will reimburse families for free and school lunches not used from March to May 2020.

Families that qualify for Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits can receive $308 per child in benefits for the whole duration of school closures,” he said. “The deadline for application is Aug. 31. Using these funds will not jeopardize the family’s immigration status.”

Just like SNAP benefits, you spend P-EBT benefits at the Cache Valley Gardner’s Market or other qualified farmers markets.

You can apply for the (P-EBT) benefits by going to https://www.pebtutah.org/ , or calling the P-EBT Phone Hotline at 1-866-435-7414.

“We can help families and individuals struggling to pay rent for issues related to the pandemic,” he said. “If someone is at risk of being evicted, they have been quarantined or have missed work they don’t have to wait until it gets out of control to ask for help.”

It is a complicated issue, but BRAG wants to let folks know they can help with rent, but they can’t do house payments. There are some organizations out there that can help with house payments, Martin said.

The rental assist program is for people who have been impacted by COVID-19 in a many ways.

A file photo of Karren Erickson helping a patron with a HEAT application,

“If their hours at work were reduced due to COVID, they were furloughed, they had to miss time to quarantine, they had to stay home from work because their day care provider had to quarantine, etc. they should apply for the COVID rental assistance,” he said. “We have seen a jump in people applying for help compared to prior years.”

He said BRAG is currently serving 70 more families than they did a year ago at this year that needed help with rent payments.

“The state has also provided additional funding this year for rental assistance,” Martin said. “And the Home Energy Assistant Target (HEAT) program is now a year-round option that can help struggling families.”

No one agency can solve the issues facing people today. BRAG participates in a coalition of people from many local agencies, churches and nonprofits doing so many things that are working to help families during these trouble times.  The Bear River COVID-19 Relief Coalition offers many different additional services. To learn more about how the coalition can help, visit their website at https://www.brvoad.org/ .

Bear River Association of Governments (BRAG) was formed in 1971 by Box Elder, Cache, and Rich counties as a voluntary organization of local governments to facilitate intergovernmental cooperation.

The organization was put together to facilitate orderly and harmonious coordination of federal, state, and local programs for the solution of mutual problems of the region.

The Bear River Association of Governments located at 170 N. Main St. has several programs hat can benefit families struggling with their bills.

Communities and organizations who wish to donate to the COVID-19 relief efforts in Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties can do so at http://bearriverfoundation.org/ or by calling 435-713-1448.

Those seeking assistance can call BRAG at 435-752-7242 or apply online at http://sealapp.utah.gov/ (for utilities) or at their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BRAGHS/ for rental assistance.

 

 

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2 Comments

  • Aimee Olsen August 16, 2020 at 9:40 am Reply

    Will brag actually follow through and help people? They have a terrible mentality of oh we’re out of funds because they don’t want to work. You talk to one worker they say they are out of funds and you talk to another and they have them. There needs to be a huge investigation done on this organization! They say they help however I have yet to actually see it besides the heat program. No I have not personally applied for help but I have attempted to help a lot and I mean a lot of other people and there is never a solution. Emily always says they are out of funding yet Lucas says it’s available. They all need to be on the same page and stop setting up there own rules on top of actual federal regulations. Maybe they should get more help if they are so “busy” or if they are out of funding not drain it by sitting around getting paid themselves from such funding and actually work? Just a thought!

    • Lucas Martin August 17, 2020 at 5:23 pm Reply

      Hi Aimee,

      If a family has been impacted by COVID-19 there is funding available. If they have not, we have to find a spot for them on programs. That means when TANF (or if they are homeless the Continuum of Care or Emergency Shelter Grant) are full, we need families to graduate off of those programs (stabilize their situation enough so they don’t need help) before we can add more households. From March to end of July we helped 161 unique households with rent assistance (compared to 79 for the same time frame last year) For HEAT we have helped over 1300 compared to 348 in that same time frame.

      We have not added any additional rules to programs. In fact, we have done everything we can to strip them away and have been able to work with the state to remove many of the barriers to the Pandemic funding they gave us. We trimmed the application down to the bare minimum, demographics, income, and a lease agreement. We doubled the emergency housing staff, had the apps translated into Spanish, turned them into fillable pdfs and added them to our facebook page. A client could even complete it on their phone. I would encourage you not to judge current staff on your past experiences.

      The biggest challenge families are having right now is finding landlords who will rent to them. You know my door is pretty open, you are always welcome to come see what is actually going on or brainstorm ways to help.

      Thank you for all that FFF does for the Community.

      Lucas

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