Local News

NC to use federal funds to help infected low-income workers isolate, limit coronavirus outbreaks

Posted July 31, 2020 7:31 p.m. EDT

— A new program designed to help people who need to quarantine during the pandemic could help stabilize North Carolina's growing coronavirus caseload or even move it in a downward trend.

The program targets the counties with the highest levels of the virus and will use about $17 million in federal relief money to help people who can't afford to isolate.

Most of the 20 counties in the new support program, which the state Department of Health and Human Services hopes to have operational after Labor Day, are in the eastern half of the state. They include Durham, Chatham, Granville, Johnston, Lee, Sampson, Vance, Wilson and Wayne counties.

State Health Director Dr. Betsy Tilson said public health workers are tracing the contacts of infected people and asking them to stay home. But many at-risk workers don't have sick leave or any other way to pay the rent.

"A lot of our people who are dependent upon going to work every day in order to get paid, for them to stay home, it’s been very hard for them to actually successfully isolate and quarantine," Tilson said.

But starting in September, low-income workers infected with or exposed to coronavirus can get some financial help, such as a one-time cash payment to help with housing and utilities, as well as home delivery of groceries and medication.

Recipients have to have been asked to quarantine or isolate and must agree to do that. They will then get referred to the program through health care providers.

Tilson said the program will be a big help in controlling outbreaks among lower-income workers.

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