Relief fund doubles amount of aid given thanks to state grant

Thanks to a state grant, the United Way of Lake County distributed $410,000 to area nonprofits in its fifth and largest round of funding through the COVID-19 Community Response Fund this week.

Kristi Long, president and CEO of United Way of Lake County, said $400,000 of the funding came from a state grant.

"Their instructions were to get it out quickly and to make it about food and housing," Long said of state officials.

"It was a great amount to get out to our nonprofits here in Lake County."

Among the organizations receiving aid are A Safe Place, which provides emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and their families. A Safe Place is serving nearly four times as many people through its shelter program than two months ago, and calls to the Safe Place hotline have increased about 635 percent, the United Way said.

Other organizations receiving funds include Catholic Charities, which is offering rent and mortgage assistance; the Community Action Project of Lake County, which is helping families with housing costs and delivering hot food to families experiencing homelessness or domestic abuse; and the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which is providing smaller Lake County food pantries with refrigerators to store donated food.

Some of the money also went to 211, the information service United Way Lake County launched in September. Its responsibilities recently expanded to serve as a screening agent for Lake County Community Action to Counter Hunger, which will provide improved access to services and streamline the application process.

United Way Lake County also gave to Curt's Café Highland Park, Families Helping Families Chicagoland, Nicasa, PADS Lake County and Roberti Community House.

"We have really exceptional agencies," Long said, referring to Lake County's nonprofits. "They are doing so much with so little money."

Long said United Way Lake County has raised just shy of $1.1 million and distributed $863,262 through the COVID-19 Community Response Fund since it was established in late March. While there have been improvements since then, serious concerns about access to housing and food remain.

"I'm still very concerned about families having the basics," Long said.

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