This article was edited on Feb. 25.
In the wake of the pandemic and other county and statewide emergencies, Pierce County’s government offers its services and community support to residents facing challenges related to the impact of COVID-19.
Pierce County’s government is made up of 25 total departments, each contributing to the overall management of Pierce County by providing services and meeting individual responsibilities.
“Our basic role is to help our partners out in the community when they’re dealing with an emergency,” said Public Information Specialist Mike Halliday from Pierce County Emergency Management.
Two departments of the Pierce County government specialize in bringing COVID-19 relief resources to Washington and Pierce County residents through federal CARES Act funding. Human Services offers programs to support households with evictions, housing assistance, childcare and food resources, while Emergency Management assists the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department with vaccine distribution and locating resources or locations for their partners to provide emergency services to the public.
In addition to managing their testing station at South 107th St. Lakewood, PCEM also dispatches four mobile COVID-19 testing units to various locations, which has tested over 100,000 people since last July. One of the units even made a few visits to Pierce College’s Puyallup campus, according to Halliday.
When a partner like the TPCHD requests assistance for events or crises, Emergency Management finds the resources, people, materials or space to help them respond. Communication with partners occurs through Zoom, Microsoft Teams or in-person when applicable since their office is based in Tacoma.
One such request made by partners was from the health department at one of their COVID-19 vaccination events, where they required floodlights after dusk to illuminate the parking lot for recipients. The lights were provided by PCEM through a large floodlight station they had on standby for assisting partners, Halliday mentioned.
Medical offices in Pierce County, along with school districts and partners, have received personal protective equipment purchased by Emergency Management through 2020 CARES Act funding. Hand sanitizer, face shields, masks and other supplies are stored in a warehouse and shipped to partners when requests are placed.
The first mass vaccination event provided 2000 doses to the county occurred at the Washington State Fairgrounds on Jan. 28. It was a joint effort between the City of Puyallup, the health department, PCEM and multiple volunteers from medical professions and community members accompanied by Central Pierce Fire and Rescue.
“The actual vaccine itself, the health department acquires it from the State Department of Health, but it’s really a team effort to get it out into the community,” said Halliday.
Updated lists for vaccine Drive-Thru locations and community clinics can be found on the Pierce County government’s website under COVID-19 vaccine information.
Human Services: housing, homelessness and food resources
Human Services, another department of the Pierce County government, will begin accepting applications for a new 2021 rental and housing assistance program opening for Pierce County residents from late February to early March. The program provides assistance to residents who are behind on rent due to COVID-19 complications. Though the exact program release date hasn’t been announced, residents can begin collecting required information and documents to use when the application process opens. Documents like household information, income verification for all household members, a copy of a lease or rental agreement and statements from landlords containing past due balances are required in the application.
One COVID-19 housing resource connected to PCHS is the New Hope Mobile Resource Response Team, which can be found on the Human Services section of Pierce County government’s website under homelessness programs. PCHS provides CARES Act funding to New Hope, the homeless service provider which maintains the program. Anyone experiencing homelessness can call 2-1-1 for live telephone support.
For individuals facing possible eviction after the extended March 2021 eviction moratorium, PCHS promotes an eviction resolution program that mutually benefits tenants and landlords. The program is offered through the Pierce County Superior Court, in partnership with TacomaPROBONO. Specialists will assist tenants in creating payment plans, extending rent payment dates and other services designed to help renters during the pandemic, according to their website.
In addition to housing resources, PCHS is connected with food banks in Pierce County to provide free access to food to anyone in need. Last year, the branch delivered meals to homes and gave farmers’ market vouchers to senior citizens through the Aging and Disability Resources program, according to PCHS Public Information Specialist Kari Moore.
“We continue to support senior nutrition through partnerships with local senior centers. Seniors in need of support should contact the Aging and Disability Resource Center at 253-798-4600,” said Moore.
The mission of the Human Services department is to ensure Pierce County retains equitable access to services within the community, respecting the unique experiences of everyone, according to the website.
Aside from COVID-19 resources and relief, the Pierce County government offers a free emergency notification system that supports the community through notifications about hazardous air quality, wildfires and other causes for evacuation. To sign up for the Pierce County ALERT system, visit the link and complete the full online form including work and residence addresses.
Interviews and article by @elissapnwnews on Twitter.
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