RCAP Solutions Hires Residential Loan Fund Manager

Carlos Lopez

RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce the addition of Carlos Lopez as Residential Loan Fund Manager, providing Home Modification Loan Program services to residents in the Central Massachusetts region. Mr. Lopez’s diverse background in community and economic development, housing, human resources, and management gives him a solid understanding of this critical housing program and the challenges that clients may face.

The Home Modification Loan Program distributes financing to disabled persons and their families, to make structural and accessibility improvements to homes, allowing individuals to remain safely independent. Funds are delivered through a state-funded loan program of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) in collaboration with the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC). RCAP Solutions is the direct administrator of this program for all of Worcester County and parts of Norfolk and Middlesex Counties.

“Mr. Lopez is a great complement to the Home Modification Loan Program,” said Lovette Chislom, RCAP Solutions Director of Housing Counseling & Financial Services. “I believe it is critical for our lending staff to be able to draw on their experience to help ensure the satisfaction of our clients. This program has experienced a high volume of interest this year as caregiving families would like to keep their loved ones at home due to concerns around the pandemic. Carlos’ compassionate and engaging personality will help our clients to feel at ease and supported during this difficult time.”

Carlos Lopez earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from the Southern New Hampshire University. Mr. Lopez is also a licensed Real Estate Agent, which makes him well qualified to handle a variety of homeownership issues that may arise during the lending and construction phases of the program.

The Home Modification Loan Program is part of The RCAP Solutions Housing Consumer Education Center, the organization’s front door to the public for all housing and emergency assistance programs. This includes financial and economic assistance programs such as Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA), and HomeBASE. There are also education and training programs, such as first-time home buyer and financial empowerment classes, and counseling support including pre and post homebuyer services and landlord/tenant assistance.

For additional information about the Home Modification Loan Program, please contact Carlos Lopez, Residential Loan Fund Manager at: Phone: (978) 630-6725, Email: clopez@rcapsolutions.org, Visit: http://www.rcapsolutions.org/home-modification-loan-program.

About RCAP Solutions:
RCAP Solutions is a thriving integrated community development corporation working whttp://www.rcapsolutions.org/home-modification-loan-programith a multi-faceted suite of services and opportunities. Established in 1969, RCAP Solutions’ mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and the communities in which they live. For more information, please visit www.rcapsolutions.org.

The New Hampshire Drinking Water Festival Will Be Virtual in 2021

The New Hampshire Drinking Water Festival will be offered virtually in 2021!

The New Hampshire Drinking Water Festival has educated and inspired fourth-graders to conserve and protect our water resources for 27 years. To keep everyone safe, the 2021 festival is moving online. As an added benefit, to support teachers, students and parents, these free online resources will be available from March through July.

Major themes include the water cycle, watersheds, groundwater, wildlife and the human water cycle. Lessons connect with student’s daily lives and explore how they can keep water clean. The online lessons and activities are designed for students in grades 3-5, but with the timeless importance of clean water, students in other grades will also benefit from them. Student in grades 3-5 are invited to participate in this year’s Water Poetry Contest. This is a great opportunity to incorporate the language arts and water science.

As a member of the New Hampshire Drinking Water Coalition, RCAP Solutions is a proud partner of this event.

The Drinking Water Festival’s new website is currently under construction, but it can be found and bookmarked for the virtual event this spring at nhwaterfestival.org. If you would like to learn more, please contact Lara Hooper at lara.hooper@des.nh.gov.

Photos courtesy of NHDES

The New Hampshire Drinking Water Festival  is sponsored by the New Hampshire Drinking Water Coalition in conjunction with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to encourage future leaders and scientists to learn about one of the world’s most precious resources: water! 

Imagine a Day Without Water: Commit to a sustainable water future for all

This year, our country faced an enormous public health crisis from the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout this emergency, water and wastewater systems kept the water flowing in homes, hospitals, and essential businesses. This crisis demonstrated the critical role that water and wastewater systems play in their communities, protecting public health, safeguarding the environment, and making a healthy economy possible. It is easy to imagine how much worse the pandemic would have been without widespread access to water infrastructure. Without reliable drinking water and sanitation, Americans would be unable to stay safe and limit the spread. In communities with inadequate water and wastewater infrastructure, the public health consequences have been dire.

Today, we Imagine a Day Without Water. It’s a day to pause and notice the way that water systems impact our lives and communities, and commit to ensuring a sustainable water future for generations to come. What would your day be like if you couldn’t turn on the tap and get clean drinking water, or if you flushed the toilet and wastewater didn’t go anywhere? What would happen to restaurants, hospitals, firefighters, farms, breweries, or the hundreds of industries that depend on water?

Millions of Americans take water service for granted every day. Turn on the tap, and clean water flows out. Flush the toilet, and dirty water goes away. Washing our hands regularly is one of the most important steps to take to limit the spread of coronavirus, and we usually don’t stop to think about the impressive infrastructure and treatment required to make sure the water comes out when you open the tap, or safely returns water to the environment from your sink. But the truth is, our water and wastewater systems are getting older – some were installed a century ago – and everyone should be concerned with the vulnerability of those systems.

While we continue to enjoy high quality and reliable water service now, maintaining that level of service is going to be harder and harder as America’s water infrastructure continues to deteriorate. Meanwhile, new threats from record rainfalls, flooding, toxic algae, drought and wildfires threaten our critical water systems. There are even communities, especially in many rural places across the country, that have never had access to infrastructure in the first place.

As we look at ways to help lift our economy out of the recession, investing in water infrastructure is a winning solution. Investing in water creates cascading economic benefits, strengthening American competitiveness, raising GDP, creating jobs and increasing wages. Investing in water provides a path to economic recovery. Imagine a Day Without Water is an opportunity for everyone to get educated about our local water systems and raise awareness with our elected leaders. We need leadership at every level to work together to ensure a reliable water future for generations to come. Investing in water is investing in a future where no American will have to imagine a day without water.

Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium Ending October 17

As the eviction and foreclosure moratorium in Massachusetts comes to an end this Saturday, October 17th, we want to ensure that tenants and homeowners know their rights as well as the resources available to them to assist with rent and mortgage payments.

If you are struggling with rent or mortgage payments because of COVID-19, there are eviction protections and financial programs available to help.

RCAP Solutions offers Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA): Funding for Worcester county households impacted by the Coronavirus crisis and state of emergency. The ERMA program is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development and provides up to $4,000 of direct funding to eligible households.

Other Funds available include Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT): A program funded by MA Department of Housing and Community Development that can provide eligible families in our service area with financial assistance to help prevent homelessness..  For more information, please call our RAFT/ERMA support line at 978.630.6771, email HCEC@rcapsolutions.org, or click here. To apply online, please click here.

RAFT vs. ERMA – What’s the difference? Click here: RAFT-vs-ERMA-Comparison

If you are not located in Worcester County, visit: mahousinghelp.com

More info on resources here: 

Door Hangers for COVID-19 Prevention

This spring, approximately 20,000 door hangers were distributed throughout central Massachusetts, with information in English and Spanish on COVID-19 prevention and symptoms, as part of a public health initiative funded by the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts (HFCM).

RCAP Solutions had recently been awarded a five-year Synergy Grant from HFCM, which was just getting off the ground with a focus on private well health in the north central MA area. When COVID-19 hit, the HFCM board reached to identify additional ways they could help with the pandemic response. As a result, supplemental funding of $8,000 was provided to RCAP Solutions to help mitigate the impact of the current coronavirus public health crisis. The funds were intended to enable RCAP to provide communications support to local boards of health in the project’s service area and help strengthen relationships with BOH’s and facilitate the project moving forward with private well testing and regulation in the future.

With a goal of education, RCAP Solutions and north central Boards of Health quickly identified communications to elderly residents through a door hanger to be the best tool to promote public health and safety throughout the community. RCAP partnered with The Wachusett Medical Reserve Corps (WMRC), a local network of public health, medical, safety and other ancillary volunteers organized to improve the health and safety of their communities, who helped to identify what information would be most useful and coordinated the door hanger distribution. A team of roughly 10 volunteers crisscrossed the state from Winchendon to Webster, delivering the hangers to boards of health and housing authorities, schools and summer meal programs, libraries, take out restaurants, community and senior centers, police stations, and homeless shelters. The hangers were also provided to RCAP’s ten senior, disabled and family properties.

“This fits in with our mission to build safe, healthy and prepared communities,” stated Judie O’Donnell, RN MPH, WMRC Director. “I’m a firm believer in public education and promoting good health practices. Information about health has to be simplified and for many it’s not easy to understand. We’re trying to combat health illiteracy, it’s so important to get the word out to as many people as possible. There are so many who have language barriers, it’s important to have images that help to show the message. Door hangers work because people get nervous in difficult situations and this is a quick and creative way for people to know what to do in an emergency. There is a lot of misinformation out there. People need to know when to call 911, and not wait until it’s too late.”

The response to the door hangers has been very positive. “Resident coordinators and property managers were very receptive and were happy to have something to hand out,” said O’Donnell. “Residents were very appreciative and liked that it’s something they can leave on the door and have as a daily reminder.”

 

Virtual Math Training

Rebekah Novak, Water Compliance Specialist for Massachusetts, Online Tech Team Lead

Since COVID-19 hit in the early months of 2020, almost all businesses, schools, and government departments were impacted in a very big way; we could not meet face to face anymore. Every business was affected differently. But the show had to go on for essential workers like highway and construction workers, medical field staff, food industry, drinking water operations and wastewater operations. For many of these fields, people must earn contact hours/credits/education credits for the license they hold by taking classes to stay educated and informed. But with the limitations on in-person meetings, and how many people are allowed in a room, how are these license holders supposed to get the training they need to maintain their licenses? A little leeway was given for those people who had to renew their drivers license, but are Wastewater Operators allowed to to lapse in credits? No. License holders waited to see if they would be given extensions on earning credits but decision makers did not loosen up on the rules. Every person with a Wastewater License in the State of Massachusetts still had to earn 20 Total Contact Hours (TCHs) by the same deadline as before COVID.

For the first few months of the “lock-down” people just figured they had a whole year ahead of them to earn credits, but as the months passed, the clock kept counting down, yet the states did not open up. Luckily, some organizations adapted and learned a new platform: virtual training. RCAP Solutions was one of those organizations that jumped right into virtual training as soon as they saw there was no end it sight to the shutdowns. Wanting to keep their staff members as well as the public safe at home or in the office, RCAP Solutions decided if they couldn’t bring people to their training, they would bring their training to the people, virtually.
Once the virtual platform was learned, the PowerPoint presentations were then altered to a friendlier format for virtual learning. The first session to go online was Basic Math for Operators. This course is intended to help both existing operators brush up on their math skills, (while earning credits) but also to help future operators prepare to pass the exam, by learning about the basic math concepts that are applied every day on the job (and it the exam).

Teaching Math in person is not all that easy but teaching it virtually made for some additional difficulties. RCAP does not typically use webcams because most clients/attendees do not have a strong internet connection and the webcams use too much bandwidth. So how do you know if your attendees are understanding the concepts you are teaching without being able to SEE them? There are several tools to use to make sure the attendees are paying attention and keeping up with you on the other side of that computer screen:

1. PowerPoint/Presentation visuals:
a. use more animation than in person slides to make the slides more interesting. The attendees have little else to look at and many distractions within an arm’s reach.
b. Use less words on each slide. Too much reading on a computer screen is tiresome, so add more pictures to convey the ideas that are discussed.

2. Virtual Interactive tools:
a. Polls: gather information or beliefs about attendees. ASK how the pace of the class is, or if they understand the topic at hand.
b. Tests: quiz attendees on covered topics to keep them engaged, and to get an idea of how well they understand that topic.
c. Virtual hand raising: ask yes/no questions or invite attendees to ask questions
d. Virtual group work: create a sense of community and work together to complete an activity
e. Chat box: ask attendees to answer your questions in the chat box. Ask them to ask questions of their own in the chat box. Get people comfortable with the chat box right away, ask icebreaker questions to get them warmed up to it.
f. Evaluation: break your evaluations down by topic, so they can be rated individually. Ask attendees to rate the platform, or each of the tools separately to see how effective they were. Ask for suggestions to make the training session better.

3. Voice:
a. Inflection: Work on your presentation voice. Try to use inflections, making your voice pitch go up and down to signify important words, grammar, or the end of sentences. Monotone voices are hard to listen to for long periods of time.
b. Quality: Be sure the quality of your audio is good. Use a headset or a microphone so your audience only hears your voice. Tinny or muffled voices are hard to understand.

4. Technical assistance: One of the most important tools to have ready is technical assistance. Some people run into issues and if they have never used online training before, they will need some help to navigate, or else, they will most likely give up and sign off. Have an extra person or two who can help individuals solve their technical issues, like connecting to audio in the beginning of a training.
Are you a License holder looking for more virtual training? Sign up for the email lists of your local associations or memberships. Express your interest in learning about a certain topic to a virtual trainer that puts on multiple sessions a year.

Are you a committee member/government official/association looking to present topics to a certain audience but do not have a way to do so? Talk to someone who recently put on a training to see if they will host your topics. Or see if they know of others who simply “host” presentations on their platform license.

Virtual trainings and presentations can be intimidating, but with the right tools and a little preparation, they can be as effective as a face to face meeting. As an added bonus, they are incredibly attractive for busy people, cut down on travel time and expenses, and promote safe learning and communications during this challenging time.

Case Study: Midland Water and Sewer Authority, PA

By Wanda Rios Martinez, Water Compliance Specialist

Midland is a small town located in Beaver County, PA. The town has their own water and sewer treatment plants. Midland Water Authority stared operations in 1907. Midland mill began operating as a stainless-steel facility the following year. The mill closed in 2016. Today the Authority services Midland Borough, Shippingport Borough and small industries with water and sewer.

The Need and RCAP’s Assistance:
Midland Borough is having financial issues. Since the mill closed operations the plant is oversized in relation to the amount of water it treats. There is concern about depreciation and state of deterioration on the part of Midland Water and Sewer. The borough needs to replace all the electrical wires/panels and bar screen. Also, they wanted to close some dead ends in the distribution system to improve the quality of the water. The maps were very old and hard to read and understand.

RCAP assisted enrolling Midland in the RD Apply system, followed the application process, and provided long distance assistance to the borough. In addition, RCAP provided GIS mapping for the distribution system. Since the borough is going to make updates at the water system and the supervisor is retiring in less than a year it was very important that the system have updated maps. Such maps include a booster of a new section of the distribution system, pump stations and Shippingport line. RCAP was able to verify and confirm the locations of the assets with the operator.

Results:
Midland Water Authority received assistance with USDA application, which should increase the financial and managerial capacity. The borough has new and accurate maps with information about hydrants, hydrants valves, booster house, water feed stations and water valves in the main line. Clear pictures tell a better story of the system status.

See full case study here: Midland Water and Sewer PA

Case Study: Lee Oak Cooperative – Barrington, NH

By Martin Mistretta, Water Compliance Specialist for New Hampshire

The Need for RCAP’s Assistance:

Lee Oak’s water system relies on an old system with several design issues that might compromise operability and water quality. Features include the proximity of the dug well to an active leach field, a very small underground pump house that prohibits adequate maintenance, and a 47-year-old hydro-pneumatic tank with extensive rust. Additionally, leaks in the distribution system are difficult to locate due to very porous soil of the site. These are all significant deficiencies identified by NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) that pose a risk to public health and safety.

The project engineer estimated the total project cost, which requires extensive infrastructure replacement from source to distribution, to be approximately $1,800,000. Too costly for a small, low income community. NHDES asked RCAP Solutions to help Lee Oak with funding options and assistance applications.

Results:
Initially, RCAP completed an income survey essential to determine funding eligibility and submitted an SRF loan pre-application. NHDES selected the project as the top priority among all applications state-wide, resulting with the approval of a $1,000,000 SRF loan, expected to be awarded in the spring of 2020. RCAP then submitted a Drinking Water and Groundwater Trust Fund (DWGTF) grant pre-application which might be eligible for $435,000 grant. RCAP coordinated enlisting an engineering firm and a grant administrator to assist with the final applications.

RCAP also helped Lee Oak apply for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), expected to be awarded in 2020, provided on-site training to board members, and helped them complete its Emergency Plan and Vulnerability Assessment. It is expected that the leveraged funding if awarded will cover then entire cost of the project.

See full case study here: Lee Oak NH

Central Mass COVID Funds for Mortgage & Rental Assistance

 

RCAP Solutions is pleased to offer new financial assistance programs for Worcester County families impacted by the recent Covid-19 pandemic and state of emergency. The Greater Worcester Community Fund Grant (GWCFG) for Mortgage & Rental Assistance is provided by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation and supported by the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund to provide up to $4,000 of direct funding to eligible households.

The fund can assist with payments for rent or mortgage arrears accrued no earlier than April 1, 2020.

In order to be eligible, a household must:

  • currently rent or own housing as a primary residence in Massachusetts
  • have a gross household income that is between the 50% and 80% Area Median Income (AMI)
  • have a housing emergency due to a financial hardship related to or exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis

Please click here for our press release: GWCFG Press Release

Households can assess their eligibility by looking at the income levels for Worcester County, found here: Income limits listing.

Questions & How to Apply:

Please note, the office is closed to the public at this time and visits are by appointment only.

RCAP Solutions Offering Funds to Assist Local Residents Experiencing Financial Hardship Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

(Worcester, MA) –  Solutions is pleased to offer two new financial assistance programs for Worcester County households impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Greater Worcester Community Fund Grant (GWCFG), is now available to provide funds to assist residents needing mortgage protection or rental assistance, in order to prevent homelessness.

GWCFG is funded by two grants totaling $408,500 provided by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, supported by the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund, which supports those across the state most impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis, including the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.

The grants can provide up to $4,000 of direct funding to eligible individuals and households. Payments are focused on those who will be homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless due to rent or mortgage arrears and must demonstrate proof of financial hardship. In order to be eligible for GWCFG, a household must currently rent or own housing as a primary residence in Worcester county, have a gross household income that is between the 50% and 80% Area Median Income (AMI), and have a housing emergency due to financial adversity related to, or exacerbated by, the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are pleased to offer this new financial assistance program through the Greater Worcester Community Foundation to residents in Worcester County,” stated Karen A. Koller, President & CEO of RCAP Solutions. “This grant allows RCAP to fulfil its mission and support a wide range of households, with a variety of income levels. It is critical that citizens in Worcester County and across the Commonwealth sustain stable housing during this pandemic.”

Households can assess their eligibility by looking at the income levels for Worcester County, which can be found on our HCEC application page. We encourage individuals or families who think they may be eligible to reach out with questions or to apply, by visiting: http://www.rcapsolutions.org/hcec-application/ or call 800.488.1969, Monday – Friday, between the hours of 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM. The office is closed between 12:00 and 1:00 PM each day. Documents can be emailed to HCEC@rcapsolutions.org or faxed to 508.365.6008. Please note, the office is closed to the public at this time and visits are by appointment only.

RCAP Solutions’ Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) offers answers to a wide range of questions about housing issues. Tenants, landlords, prospective buyers, and homeowners can access information designed to maximize housing stability, strengthen investments, and minimize disputes. RCAP Solutions is one of nine member agencies in the statewide Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, offering housing assistance, services, and information to low-and moderate-income residents of Massachusetts.

About RCAP Solutions, Inc.
RCAP Solutions is a thriving integrated community development corporation working with a multi-faceted suite of services and opportunities. Established in 1969, RCAP Solutions’ mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and the communities in which they live. For more information, please visit www.rcapsolutions.org.