The Town of Old Saybrook announced Tuesday a program to help residents struggling with layoffs and unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic.
The new program, called Old Saybrook Cares, allows residents to apply for a grant of up to $1,500 to be used toward basic needs such as food, housing, utilities, child care or transportation costs.
"To know that there's money available gives them a sense of security, that they're going to be able to pay their rent or they're going to be able to feed their children," said Mark Ricciardelli, an Old Saybrook resident and Co-Chair of the Old Saybrook Cares Committee.
Only town residents can apply and only one grant will be awarded per household. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The program was created through efforts by the town's Long Term Recovery Committee, a group made up of local government, voluntary agencies, community faith-based organizations, philanthropy and private sector partners.
"To meet the needs of our residents after a natural disaster or in this case the COVID-19 pandemic, identify any gaps where those folks may be hurting, and respond with local resources. And if we're not able to respond with local resources, go to the state to ask for additional assistance," said Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna.
Fortuna says, just like everywhere else, the town saw rising unemployment.
"We started out with several hundred people on continuing claims. It peaked at about 800 people. We're down to about 575 in continuing claims. The population in Old Saybrook is 10,200 people, so as you can see, that's a pretty significant number," said Fortuna.
Partnering with Middlesex United Way, the Committee is hoping to raise $100,000, and they're already $30,000 dollars closer. The company From You Flowers, located in Old Saybrook, donated the matching grant. The hope is it inspires others to give.
"We're looking for a significant amount of support from the businesses and people here in Old Saybrook," said Ricciardelli.
Those looking to apply or donate toward the cause can click here for more information.
Applications can also be dropped off at the Old Saybrook Town Hall, emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to: OS CARES Committee c/o Town Hall, 302 Main Street, Old Saybrook, CT 06475.
The first round of grants will be distributed in late August, and the town hopes their program becomes a model for other communities.