BY BENJAMIN MANDILE
Coronavirus broke onto U.S. soil in late January 2020 and by early March the first case of the novel virus seeped into New York City with a Manhattan woman coming back from Iran being the first confirmed case in New York State.
A little over a month later, New York State holds the most number of COVID-19 cases nationwide and the boroughs of NYC are essentially shut down in an effort to curb the trend of new infections.
The decision to put NYC under PAUSE-measures did not come without a backlash of effects, including unemployment claims reaching 7-figure numbers earlier this week across the nation as other states follow similar measures.
Job loss not only impacts one’s daily schedule, but also can impact access to health insurance, the ability to put food on the table and paying bills that will continue to stack up.
Public Health Solutions, a NYC-based organization seeking to support vulnerable families, has been helping New Yorkers find solutions to these problems they are currently facing.
Public Health Solutions works to help connect people in need with services including claiming food stamps, signing up for health insurance and helps facilitate partnerships with around 200 community based organizations in the boroughs.
New Yorkers in need can find access to food stamps, medical insurance and the neighborhood Women Infant and Children program (WIC), through PHS online or by calling the number on their website.
PHS’ WIC offices are operating on a “modified” schedule until further notice, according to its website. Those in need are able to enroll for more than one program and are not excluded from one program if they are in other programs.
In Queens, PHS has seen the Corona neighborhood hit the hardest in terms of infections, adding that there is “significant”overcrowding in the neighborhood and that the economic hardship experienced here probably is leading the neighborhood to see the highest number of COVID-19 cases.
“The idea of social distancing is much much harder there,” said Lisa David, president and CEO of Public Health Solutions.
The City Department of Health has reported that Queens has the highest number of coronavirus cases of all the boroughs.
PHS launched its COVID-19 Response Fund to support expansion of its services as demand increases from New Yorkers struggling during the coronavirus crisis, according to PHS spokewsoman Genevieve Friedman.
Traffic on its website has seen an increase on the SNAP assistance and find services pages in terms of page views. The SNAP assistance page has seen a 164% increase with 557 views in February to 1,471 views in March. The find services page saw a 61% increase with 1,071 views in February and 1,726 views in March.
“People can donate to the COVID-19 Response Fund to support PHS’ expansion of services that support New Yorkers for the long-term as a result of the coronavirus crisis,” said Friedman.
Staff at PHS have tested positive for COVID-19 in small numbers, but a larger amount of staff are sick. David said that many non-profits around the city are facing the same predicaments as public transit schedules have been reduced and public transit is becoming more crowded.
The pressures on these providers is “extraordinary,” said David. “We’re only seeing the beginning.”