How to help — and find help — as the coronavirus surges in Texas during the holiday season

Texas

A photo from Central Texas Food Bank.

AUSTIN (Texas Tribune/KXAN) — As Texans face another surge in coronavirus infections, many people are finding themselves stuck at home in the midst of the holiday season with no income or access to necessary resources like food or medical services.

In response to growing concerns around the nation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide moratorium on evictions that took effect in early September. It protects renters from losing their home through Dec. 31.

Food banks, nonprofits and some local pantries are providing free meals for people and asking for donations and volunteers as they face a significant increase in demand. Texans also have access to a variety of other resources, including rent and utility assistance and free internet. Here’s a list.

Food near me: How can I get meals?

Texans who meet certain income eligibility guidelines can apply for various federal benefit programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides money for food, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children provides resources for pregnant women and people with children younger than 5.

Feeding Texas has a website where people can find food banks that can provide free groceries and a place to sign up for SNAP benefits. The organization is also asking for donations here, as the number of families seeking assistance from Texas food banks has doubled since March.

Local chapters of the Salvation Army in Texas are also offering a variety of services, including shelter, addiction services and food pantries. Texans can donate directly to the Salvation Army Texas on its website or to their local chapters, which can be found here.

The Meals on Wheels Texas website allows Texans to search for local chapters providing meals to elderly individuals that can be picked up or home delivered. Local chapters are also looking for volunteers and certain items to be donated. Specific needs can be found on the local chapters’ websites.

Little Free Pantry is a nationwide network of local pantries providing food and resources to people experiencing food insecurity. Texans can find a map of pantries in their area here or list their own pantry if they would like to start one.

Texas medical supplies and services

The Texas Association of Community Health Centers has a page where people can search for community health centers, health center networks and other providers serving the uninsured in Texas. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, many centers are asking patients to call first before coming in.

Texans can call 2-1-1 and select option 6 for questions about COVID-19 and local resources on health care, utilities, food, housing and more. Or they can visit the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s website to learn more about health services like low-cost or free health coverage for children, health programs for low-income families and services for Texas women. Various counties across Texas also have websites with public health information and local hotlines for COVID-19 questions and virtual screenings.

As hospitals resume surgical procedures and patient treatments that were temporarily paused due to the pandemic, the American Red Cross is urging people to give blood to avoid potential blood shortages. People can sign up to give at various locations in Texas here.

For mental health support related to COVID-19, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission created a 24/7 statewide toll-free phone number at (833) 986-1919.

Healthy Texas Women offers women’s health and family planning services at no cost to eligible women in Texas, and the Texas Nurse-Family Partnership pairs nurses who specialize in maternal and child health with low-income, first-time mothers.

Texas unemployment benefits: How to file

The Texas Tribune and ProPublica have created a guide to help people who have lost their jobs navigate the unemployment benefits system in Texas.

On Dec. 26, unemployment benefits that were extended through the COVID-19 pandemic through the CARES Act are set to expire, with Congress having yet to approve a new package.

Texans whose employment has been affected by the new coronavirus can apply for benefits using Unemployment Benefits Services or call (800) 939-6631 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day for assistance.

Many Texans are also using Facebook support groups like Texas Unemployment Updates and Unemployment Texas Information and Help to share resources and information on applying for unemployment benefits and finding work.

Rent relief and housing assistance

211 Texas and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs allows Texans to select their location and the type of help they need, leading to a list of resources in the region including rent, utility, food and housing assistance.

The Texas Apartment Agency compiled a list of organizations that can assist with emergency housing needs and household expenses by county or region. Scroll to the bottom of the PDF to find the area you live in and browse available financial resources.

If you are experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness, you can search free and reduced cost services like housing, medical care and food in your area through the Texas Homeless Network’s website.

There are several information and advocacy centers in Texas targeting the needs of low-income families and underserved communities. Texas Housers provides low-income housing information services, and the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation has affordable housing programs to help people find homes. Texas Tenant’s Union focuses on preserving renters’ homes and educating them on their rights as tenants. And Merced Housing Texas provides affordable housing for individuals and families, as well as supportive services.

Need Help Paying Bills has a list of organizations on its website offering housing support or eviction prevention services throughout the state of Texas, including emergency housing and homeless shelters.

Internet, diapers and more: Other resources

Comcast is providing free Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots around the nation. People can find hotspots here and then select the “xfinitywifi” network. T-Mobile also started Project 10Million to give families who don’t have an internet connection and are enrolled in the National School Lunch program 100GB of mobile data per year and a free mobile hotspot, if selected.

Aunt Bertha is a nationwide website with a searchable index of a variety of free support services, such as food banks and health care. Texans can search for services in their area by typing in their ZIP code.

The State Bar of Texas has a hotline at 800-504-7030 to connect Texans with legal service providers, who can give assistance with bankruptcy and debt-collection matters, unemployment applications and other civil legal problems.

Texas Diaper Bank is sending diapers to babies, seniors and others who need them. They are looking for monetary donations or diapers, menstrual pads and other products.

The last coronavirus relief bill was passed in March, a $1.8 trillion package that included $1,200 stimulus payments for some Americans. President-elect Joe Biden has said his administration would make moves to get relief to Americans on day one.

That plan would reportedly include free COVID-19 testing expansion and emergency paid leave covering 100% of weekly salaries or average weekly earning up to $1,400 per week.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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