By Kassie Simmons | June 2, 2021 at 5:52 PM EDT – Updated June 2 at 5:52 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – While coronavirus cases may be down, the vaccine demand is dropping with it and people still need help making ends meet during the pandemic.
State leaders said today that in just two weeks of accepting applications again, the HOPE program sent out over $1 million in checks to keep people in their homes. The money is going to landlords and utility companies.
Many people lost their jobs in the last year and have struggled to pay their bills ever since. While work may not be an option for some people as the pandemic continues, the bills continue to roll in. Rather than allow struggling residents to drown in rent, electric bills and late fees, the state stepped in to take at least some stress off their shoulders. While these families get back on their feet, landlords and utility companies still get paid.
“Two weeks ago, North Carolina opened a second application period for the HOPE program using funding from the American Rescue Plan,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “I’m pleased to announce that checks are already on their way to landlords and utility companies to keep people in their homes with the lights on. As of today, 924 checks for a total of $1.1 million have already been mailed to help North Carolinians in need just in the first two weeks.”
The point of the program is to serve low-income renters or anyone that lost a job or income during the pandemic. You can reapply during the second phase even if you received assistance the first time around.
Right now North Carolina is near the bottom of the country in total vaccinations, making a comeback from the economic hit the state took during the pandemic harder than ever. To help encourage people to get vaccinated, the state is offering incentives.
Right now, it’s a pilot program only a handful of counties will offer gift cards that can be used like cash. None of those counties are in WECT’s viewing area, but state health officials say the program could become statewide. The state is also looking into other incentive programs like a lottery where someone could win serious money if they get a vaccine.
This is all in an effort to get North Carolina to that two-thirds vaccinated mark which at the current rate could be months from now if not longer Locally, only Brunswick and New Hanover counties are at or near 50 percent vaccinated while Bladen and Columbus counties have some of the lowest numbers in the state.
Dr. Mandy Cohen says if you have questions or concerns about the vaccine — simply ask your doctor.
“I think there’s a group of folks who have real questions about the vaccine,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of NC DHHS. “We want to make sure that they get good answers to those questions, want to make sure that they can talk to their doctor, maybe get vaccinated at their doctor’s office. We know from talking to others that they often, if they are not vaccinated, want to get vaccinated doctor’s office, so again, working with our providers, make sure they have vaccines on the shelf, can have those conversations.”
Another concern brought up at today’s press conference was the effort to get vaccines into minority and low-income communities. Governor Cooper says it’s not just distrust in healthcare providers, but the lack of a provider to begin with.
“People don’t have health insurance. It makes it difficult for them to go to a doctor. Consequently, it’s more difficult for them to make the decision to go get vaccinated,” Gov. Cooper explained. “I think the department has done a good job in trying to reach out to those underserved communities to get more people vaccinated.”
While the state works to get into minority communities, the vaccine statistics have yet to match the state’s demographics.
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