Volunteers needed for senior meal delivery 07

Orem Mayor Richard Brunst delivers food from Meals on Wheels to Elaine Simons on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, in Orem. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

The COVID-19 pandemic has caught many high-risk people off-guard. They may often need or want help or assistance in some way, but aren’t quite sure where or how to find it.

To help these individuals, the Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) and Orem have expanded services and resource information lists.

“Under direction of the state, we are expanding our services to those who are considered high risk in order to allow them to stay safely at home during COVID-19,” said Stephanie Benson, marketing director for MAG Aging and Family Services.

In every phase, according to state protocol, high-risk individuals operate under stricter instructions because they are more likely to suffer severe illness from COVID-19.

While Utah has moved to the moderate risk phase, individuals in high-risk categories, including older adults and those who are immunocompromised, should continue to follow “high-risk” protocols, and exercise all possible caution. Individuals who work or live with persons in high-risk categories should also continue following “high-risk” guidance, according to printed state guidelines.

These services would include meal help, delivery of groceries and medicine, transportation to and from appointments, and other challenges that prevent them from staying safely at home, according to Benson.

This includes expanding services for Meals on Wheels for those who might not typically qualify, Benson added.

How do you know if you are in the high-risk category and are an individual that MAG can help?

According to Benson, you must fit in one of these criteria:

  • People aged 65 years and older.
  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
  • People who have serious heart conditions.
  • People who are immunocompromised by cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, HIV or AIDS, prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune-weakening medications, and other immunocompromising factors.
  • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index of 40 or higher) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well-controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure or liver disease.

“We are targeting those who do not have family or community support,” Benson said. “Additionally, we’ve expanded services under the HEAT (Home Energy Assistance Target) program to continue providing utility payment assistance to low-income families and individuals through the end of the year,” Benson said. “This program is available to all who qualify, not just those who are considered high risk.”

The HEAT program is a sister program to the rental assistance program that launched Monday. The HEAT deadline has been extended throughout the end of the year to help those affected by COVID-19.

“Those who need help paying their utility bills can get help at https://mountainland.org/heat. Last year, the program paid $1.1 million in utility bill assistance in only six months,” Benson said. “We expect the number to increase significantly due to the deadline extension.”

The city of Orem understands many area residents are struggling to pay for their housing and utilities and meet basic needs due to job loss and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We as a city want to make sure you have the needed information and resources to help you weather the current storm,” said Kena Jo Mathews, community outreach coordinator.

Mathews has brought together a resource list that can be found on the city website at https://orem.org/residentresources/ to find help.

Residents who have questions or would like to talk to someone may call 211 or look online at https://211utah.org/.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter

@gpugmire

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