As Union County entered 2022, residents were still feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to anyone recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Now, in April, residents face rising inflation. In February, US inflation hit a new 40-year high of 7.9%, driven by soaring gasoline, food and housing prices.
“There are so many people in the community who are still looking for support and Union County 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 Board of Commissioners is committed to assisting those in need, where we can, to alleviate any additional hardships they may face – from housing assistance to food distributions and job opportunities.”
Beginning with the announcement of a zero percent tax increase in this year’s 2022 budget in March, Union County has promoted its efforts to help Union County residents in many different areas. .
Last month, they announced the Union County Emergency Rent Assistance Program (ERAP), which provides significant economic assistance to help low- and moderate-income households at risk of homelessness or housing instability by providing assistance for rent arrears, temporary rents and utility arrears. Assistance is always available, residents can visit www.ucnj.org/rental-assistance 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 Union County households as they continue to face food insecurity. After a successful food distribution last week, there will be another for residents on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. at the Elizabeth School Board parking lot (across from 600 Pearl Street) in Elizabeth. This is a drop-in site. Also, 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 sharp rise in inflation is making it harder for them to pay for necessities like food, gas and rent and it’s important that our Union County residents are aware of all the resources and all services available to assist them,” said Commissioner Sergio Granados, FY2022 Chair and Human Services Advisory Council Liaison. “Knowing that many people in our community are still struggling, it was really important to the County Commissioners that we had a zero percent tax increase for the third year in a row. After working with the County Executive and Department heads, that’s exactly what we’ve done. Even with continued tax increases, Union County continues to maintain and strengthen the services our residents need and deserve. I hope that all members of our community will look to and benefit from these programs and initiatives. We are here to help.”
Last week, the Union County Board of Commissioners announced the launch of the Empowering Our Youth summer employment program. Now open to applicants, this program is operated by the Union County Division of Youth Services and is offered to county residents between the ages of 16 and 24.
This employment program offers full-time and part-time positions at various locations for $15 per hour. The Empowering Our Youth summer jobs program can provide uniforms, transportation, and childcare services to those seeking summer employment. The application deadline is Thursday, May 19, 2022. Applicants wishing to view the eligibility criteria 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 of Aging and Disability Services resumed the Senior Nutrition Program at various locations across the county. The congregation’s nutrition program offers participants the opportunity to enjoy a balanced and nutritious lunch in the company of friends and neighbors. For more information, please call the Union County Division of Aging/Nutrition Program at 908-527-4877 or 908-558-2297.
Union County Meals on Wheels is also offered to homebound residents, such as the elderly or couples unable to prepare a nutritious, balanced meal; people recovering from recent hospitalization or illness or anyone 60 or older, or anyone married to someone 60 or older. This program is supported by a grant from the Union County Division on Aging, customer contributions, and donations from public and private organizations. For more information or to register for this program, please visit www.mowuc.org/ or call 908-486-5100.
The paratransit division is also operational and provides transport services for individual passengers for several routes, including the Route 22 shuttle, medical care, shopping, employment, education or training, collection of prescriptions and other essential services. All reservations are limited to availability on a first-come, first-served basis and transportation will be provided with a limited number of passengers on each vehicle. Interested residents should call 908-241-8300 (option 1) to make a reservation and plan their trip.
To learn more about the various services, programs, or events held across all Union County departments and divisions, please visit www.ucnj.org.