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Families in need of support due to the economic hardships caused by COVID-19 can apply to the Department of Social Services Supportive Services and Emergency Assistance programs.

NEWLAND — The Avery County Department of Social Services is making efforts to inform local families of financial help that is available to families with children younger than 18 years old.

Two financial programs currently available through the department are Supportive Services and Emergency Assistance, both of which require documents related to the bills for which a family is seeking payment assistance. Supportive Services helps families afford car, mortgage or rent payments, while Emergency Assistance provides assistance for bills related to electricity, water, rent or mortgages.

The assistance is available to families of at least two members that make less than $2,818.34 per month. The income guideline increases by $736.67 for each additional family member. A drop box for applicants is available outside of the Avery DSS office in Newland. Those seeking Support Services must fill out a yellow application, while a purple application form is required or Emergency Assistance.

Families can also apply for Medicaid, as well as food and nutritional services on the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website at www.ncdhhs.gov.

Avery DSS supervisor Alesia Calloway said that claims for food stamps have tripled in the last three weeks.

“People losing their jobs and being laid off is the main reason people are applying. They don’t have the income to buy food,” Calloway said.

The United States Department of Agriculture has recently been giving food stamps applicants the maximum allotment. Calloway said she had spoken with an individual who normally receives $16 and draws Social Security, who is now receiving $178 as part of the stimulus package passed by Congress. The increase will stay in effect for the months of April and May.

“The USDA is going to be staggering supplements until every household has been issued additional benefits. We don’t have a schedule yet, but they start staggering beginning the 20th of April,” Calloway said.

Families with beneficiaries can also look into the Benefit Diversion Program, which provides non-recurring short-term benefits designed to deal with a certain crisis or episode of need.

While anyone can apply for food stamps, individuals who do not have dependents but still need emergency assistance can seek financial assistance from Reaching Avery Ministries or Volunteer Avery.

The Avery DSS office is located at 175 Linville St. in Newland. To apply for Medicaid or Food and Nutritional Services, click to epass.nc.gov.

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