COVID-19 restrictions are really hard on everyone in different ways. Parents of young children are stretched thin, teenagers are aching to be with friends, some people are isolated alone at home, and those particularly vulnerable to the virus are worried.

A lot of people are struggling to make ends meet, and people are nervous about their businesses or getting food on the table. But there is help.

Go to uwlamoille.org/get-help for a comprehensive list of all the resources available in our area.

•••

You probably know that the state is currently making appointments for people 75 and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The best way to make an appointment is to go to: healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine/getting-covid-19-vaccine. Choose either the health department or Kinney Drugs.

Tech-savvy neighbors, friends and adoring grandchildren are encouraged to help those elders who have amazing lived experiences and life skills but are not digital saavy and may struggle with signing up online. If you cannot make an appointment online, call 855-722-7878.

Medical personnel are present at all state vaccination clinics, so even those who prefer to be vaccinated with a doctor nearby can feel comfortable going to a clinic. Seniors who need free rides for vaccination should call Rural Community Transportation at 1-802-748-8170.

Now is the time to practice extra vigilance around COVID prevention. We have months to go before our state even begins to approach herd immunity, and new strains of the virus mean that we are all vulnerable right now. Wear a mask everywhere — gyms, stores, and going to the dump. Social gatherings outside of your household are still not allowed, which means you cannot get together with even one friend unless it is outside doing a physical activity wearing masks and distancing.

•••

Almost everyone knows someone who just cannot find employment in Lamoille County. And almost every employer in Lamoille County knows how hard it is to fill jobs.

If there are people who want jobs and people who want to fill jobs, why is it so hard to pair them up? Because of barriers to employment.

Now, there’s a powerful team of people who are taking on those barriers. In the fall, our county was awarded a Working Communities Challenge grant to reduce barriers for people seeking jobs.

First, some basic information on the grant:

• The funds total $315,000 over three years.

• The program is run by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

• The backbone partners are Capstone Community Action and United Way of Lamoille County, with many other local core community partners including nonprofits, governmental organizations and schools.

• The focus areas are substance misuse, transportation, childcare, broadband access and communication.

This grant will go toward strengthening, coordinating and improving the infrastructure that allows people to access the existing network of workforce resources. We’re taking what we already have to the next level, to help workers and businesses find each other and to remove the obstacles that keep people from the workforce.

“We are in the planning phase of what will be a long term and sustainable community structure supporting individuals, organizations, and businesses with the goal of a healthy community and strong economy,” says Clarissa French, co-director of United Way of Lamoille County.

What does that look like practically? There will be an information hub with trained navigators to answer the phone and pair people with the resources they need to find their way over barriers. That way, people do not get stuck on bumps that feel insurmountable.

Additionally, the grant will be used to increase broadband access in our community, gather information and support local initiatives in the key focus areas. The Racial Equity Alliance of Lamoille is involved in planning, helping the partners build capacity without replicating the racist assumptions that are ubiquitous in American systems.

The partnership is designed to increase collaboration. Ellen Hill, co-director of United Way of Lamoille County, explains: “This grant will support and expand current initiatives that focus on equity, education and training, and identify and address workforce barriers. This is an opportunity for local businesses, human services, the education sector and municipal governments to work together to strengthen our economy.”

COVID recovery is going to require some serious transitions in how our workforce operates. We will need strong systems to support people and businesses through those times. As the core partners meet to work out the specifics of implementation, post-COVID transition is paramount.

•••

Vermont offers free, science-based classes for people who want to lead healthier lives. MyHealthyVT (myhealthyvt.org) offers virtual classes such as diabetes prevention, pain management and quitting smoking, all led by health experts.

Know what’s there. Tell someone in your community about these classes. Or take one yourself. New classes begin statewide each week.


Emily Rosenbaum is the public information officer for the Lamoille Area Health and Human Services Response Command Center, a group of over 30 organizations collaborating to better serve our area. You can reach her at emily.rosenbaum@lah2s-rcc.org.

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