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Assistance available for Johnson County residents amidst crisis

By Meg Dickens 
Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic hit small businesses hard, leaving many people without a job, far fewer hours, or profits sinking into losses. Government assistance seems to have helped, but areas like Johnson County, where the norm sits below the poverty line, is another story.There are programs and organizations around that specialize in assistance, and many groups are stepping up to help those COVID hit hardest financially.

“There’s a lot of things that Appalachia struggles with, but it’s full of the most amazing people in the country, if you ask me,” Women of Mountain City Founder and President Olivia Stelter said in a previous interview. “We just have a lack of access to the things that could help our community that we truly just don’t know about.”

Resources for Johnson County are growing. One program now coming monthly to Johnson County is the Upper East Tennessee Human Development’s (UETHDA) Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). As the name implies, this program offers financial help for people struggling with their
energy bills. This month’s stop will be across from Walgreens from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p .m. on Wednesday, November 18. Anyone interested should bring a copy of their state identification, social security numbers for everyone in the household, a year of utility history, a copy of their current bill, and proof of income from the last month. Find out more at uethda.org.

Some necessary goods are difficult to find even when finances allow. Items like toilet paper became a prime candidate for hoarding early in the pandemic. The United Way is partnering with Women of Mountain City to deliver a variety of general help. Along with Women of MC’s trademark period and hygiene products, this partnership also offers assistance with rent, gas, food, and utilities. Interested parties can meet across from Walgreens on November 18 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on November 19 between 9 a.m., and on November 20 between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Women of MC also provides clothing, food, and other specialized items during select times. See more details on the Women of MC Facebook page, @womenofmc.

One particular concern in 2020 is health and medical care. Reports show that the COVID-19 threat is still present and growing, but that does not lessen the importance of other types of medical needs. Increased costs often decrease preventative care and can lead to dire consequences in some cases. 

“In Tennessee, the uninsured rate has started to rise again,” Project Access- East Tennessee explained. “The uninsured have a far-reaching impact on communities, businesses, and the healthcare industry. The cost of caring for the uninsured will fall most broadly on the community as a whole. With rising costs of healthcare, individuals are less likely to seek preventative care and rely on emergency rooms when their illness has progressed too far.”

Project Access- East Tennessee provides free specialty medical care to residents of Johnson, Washington, Unicoi, and Carter counties struggling with medical costs and without health insurance. Find out more information on assistance at (423) 232-6700 or projectaccesseasttn.org.

Sometimes help comes in different forms. A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition is a well-known organization devoted to improving the area with actions like decreasing drug use. The members use their platform to inform, teach, and aid those in need related to Substance Use Disorders. Their work includes community events and resources such as the Celebrate Recovery Walk, Drug Take-Back Day, and the new A.C.T.I.O.N Addiction Recovery Resource Center (AARRC). See more details at actioncoalition.org.

With no shortage of local support, residents are urged to take advantage of all that is offered.