Grant to help Elgin-area residents affected by pandemic

A $400,000 grant will help connect Elgin-area residents affected by COVID-19 with health and financial resources.

The Illinois Public Health Association grant funds the hiring of six community health care workers to help with people vaccine sign up and COVID-19 education, as well as referring those affected by the pandemic to resources for rental, food and utility assistance and more.

The Gail Borden Public Library District, its foundation and Centro de Informacion will coordinate with local, regional and state partners to assist in communities served by the library and Elgin Area School District U-46 as part of the Pandemic Health Navigator Program. The statewide program started in January with a goal of integrating community health centers, community-based organizations, and public health partners to coordinate resources for the most vulnerable populations affected by the pandemic.

Perry Maier, regional coordinator of the grant, worked with the library district during the 2020 census and will do so again in this effort. "We want this grant to help many, many people who need assistance," Maier said. "I was part of the original Census 2020 effort in Elgin and I experienced the power of dedicated people working together. We need those trusted messengers to help now."

Denise Raleigh, the library's division chief, public relations and development, said the library district has hired five of the six health care workers and reached out to the community network established during the census.

Raleigh said the navigator program will involve community outreach and helping people referred by IPHA. Workers will be posted at the library's main branch from 1 to 5 p.m. weekdays to offer assistance.

The IPHA grant, which is funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health, will largely be used for referral help but some money will be available to help with needs that community services may not be able to meet, she said.

"We are a great connecting space, so we'll use all of our connectivity and networks to make sure that people know we're doing this in the community," Raleigh said, "and just try to elevate people who have had an impact from COVID."

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