Counties make significant investments in human services to help residents live well and achieve their fullest potential by supporting their path towards economic mobility and self-sufficiency. Many counties are responsible for funding and operating county-based human services agencies and departments providing a variety of services supporting children and families and individuals with employment services and financial assistance. These services offer low-income families and individuals with as cash, emergency and food assistance (e.g., the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)).

To improve access, counties are creating neighborhood-based services centers embedded in low-income communities where county employees or community-based providers offer workforce preparedness trainings, job search support and financial assistance. Most service centers are closed during COVID-19; however, county workers are supporting residents with online applications, establishing drop off services at local service centers, promoting public health guidelines and developing social distancing protocols for walk-in assistance to reduce the spread of the virus.

Ramsey County, Minn.

Ramsey County Social Services has a financial assistance services department that administers programs providing single adults and families with economic support to help them meet basic needs. County employees determine initial and ongoing eligibility for emergency, cash and medical assistance, food support and child care subsidies and communicate program rules and requirements. While applications for income eligibility programs are submitted online, the county has established several locations for submitting applications and providing walk-in services. County staff must adhere to public health guidelines while providing services at in-person centers. Building facilities and drop box exteriors are cleaned and sanitized multiple times daily to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Dauphin County, Pa.

During COVID-19, the Dauphin County is partnering with the United Way to increase access to safety net programs through a 2-1-1 centralized intake and referral system. Services range from financial assistance to locating nearby food pantries. Residents are encouraged to call 2-1-1 or text their zip code to 898-211 for a live, two-way conversation with United Way staff or search for community-based services through the 2-1-1 website which provides statewide, regional and local resources.

The health and safety of residents are paramount for counties. County human services staff are on the frontlines providing essential medical, nutrition and financial assistance and economic supports to children, families and older adults at a critical time in our country and helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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