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.

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.

Private Well Program Addresses Well Issues in North Central MA

RCAP SOLUTIONS LAUNCHING PRIVATE WELL PROGRAM TO ADDRESS WELL ISSUES & CONTAMINATION IN NORTH CENTRAL MASSACHUSETTS

 

Worcester, MA – RCAP Solutions is launching the North Central Massachusetts Private Well Program to address drinking water issues in the Northern Central Massachusetts area. The program will include complimentary assessments and testing to identify contamination, provide public education, and work with local Boards of Health and other partners to promote better public health and safety for households with private wells through local and statewide regulations.

RCAP Solutions is seeking local homeowners with private wells who are interested in learning more about the quality of their water and the condition of their wells. Unlike public drinking water systems, private wells do not have experts regularly checking the water’s source and its quality before it is sent to the tap. Households that use private wells should take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of their drinking water. Potential contaminants such as arsenic, radon, and uranium can have both short and long-term health impacts.

The RCAP staff will provide qualifying homeowners in the north central Massachusetts area with a free, on-site professional review of their well head and recharge area. The staff will adhere to strict social distancing practices to keep the homeowners safe during the coronavirus pandemic. The assessment will conclude with a complimentary water test from a state-certified lab, which otherwise can be a costly and time-consuming procedure. The water quality analysis will test for the following contaminants: Arsenic, Chloride, Copper, Fluoride, Hardness, Iron. Lead, Manganese, pH, Sodium, Coliform Bacteria, Nitrate/Nitrite, Radon, and Uranium. Interested homeowners can visit www.rcapsolutions.org/ma-private-wells for additional information.

The Central Massachusetts Private Well Program is a community partnership funded by a $196,150 Synergy Initiative planning grant from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. The goal of the program this year is to assess a minimum of 20 private wells in the northern Worcester County area to determine the presence and location of water quality issues to inform the development of a pilot project in 2021 that will conduct additional private well water testing in the region. The second phase of this effort will include public education, advocacy for local and statewide private well regulations that better protect homeowners and communities, and identification of financial resources for homeowners needing well remediation.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts in this important public health project,” stated Karen A. Koller, President & CEO of RCAP Solutions. “Because there are no state-wide regulations surrounding private well maintenance, it’s critical that homeowners in Central Massachusetts and across the state understand the importance of regular assessments and water testing. We are pleased to be able to fulfill our mission and meet the needs of rural communities by providing this valuable technical assistance to private well owners.”

Dr. Jan Yost, President & CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, added, “Access to clean and safe drinking water free of harmful contaminants is essential to good health. The Foundation is pleased to support this important project that seeks to improve private well water quality through increased knowledge and enhanced local and statewide regulations to protect the public’s health.”

“Massachusetts continues to be at risk of dangerous substances like arsenic, radon, and uranium,” stated Congresswoman Lori Trahan. “They are a clear threat to our health and environment. It is time for Congress and the federal government to get serious about assisting municipalities in need of resources to respond to this public health concern. That’s what I’ve advocated for since coming to Congress, and it’s why I will always support grant funding that organizations like Resources for Community and People can use to improve our quality of life. RCAP Solutions has been doing exceptional work in this area, and I applaud their efforts.”

RCAP Solutions is working closely with the Montachusett Public Health Network and the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health to assist communities with promotional efforts and to ensure positive outcomes for homeowners. In addition, RCAP is collaborating with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and ongoing efforts to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water.

“The MassDEP Drinking Water Program is pleased to be collaborating with RCAP Solutions on this HFCM funded North Central Massachusetts Private Well Program,” stated Yvette DePeiza, MassDEP’s Drinking Water Program Director. “This project provides some critical resources to North Central Massachusetts health agents and private well owners within the project area towns, helping to ensure that these private sources of drinking water are safe and reliable.”

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.

About The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts
The Foundation was established in 1999 with the proceeds from the sale of Central Massachusetts Health Care, Inc., a physician-initiated, not-for-profit HMO. The Foundation currently has assets of approximately $73 million and has awarded grants totaling approximately $44 million to improve the health of those who live or work in Central Massachusetts. For further information about the Foundation’s grant programs, please visit The Health Foundation’s website at www.hfcm.org.

Bill Minkle, A Champion for Housing

It is with much sadness that we announce the passing of our good friend and colleague Bill Minkle, who died on Sunday, August 2, 2020.

A passionate advocate, Bill dedicated his life to uplifting people from unfortunate circumstances. Throughout his career in positions at South Middlesex Opportunity Council, Inc. (SMOC), Montachusett Opportunity Council, Inc. (MOC) and Ecumenical Social Action Committee, Inc. (ESAC), Bill worked tirelessly to create a better future for some of the most vulnerable citizens across Massachusetts, especially those who were victims of domestic violence. He was instrumental in shaping housing and workforce development policies and programs to address homelessness and support thousands of individuals and families each year.

He was a recipient of the “Building a Better Boston” Award from the University of Massachusetts Boston Center for Collaborative Leadership; recognized for “making significant contributions to advancing the community through his work as a convener and collaborator.”

Bill concluded his career as the Executive Vice President at RCAP Solutions, where he was a strong champion for diversity and inclusion. In his six years as a member of the organization’s leadership team, he served as a trusted supervisor, passionate communicator, and supportive mentor.

In this role, Bill created powerful partnerships that were instrumental to RCAP Solutions’ acclimation into the city of Worcester. Most recently, he was recognized by Worcester Mayor Joe Petty in his “Heroes Among Us” presentation for Bill’s extensive work with the City and his support of the homeless population during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bill was a champion for housing and a voice for the voiceless. His legacy will continue to have a positive influence for many years throughout the Commonwealth.

Bill’s full obituary can be found here: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/telegram/obituary.aspx?n=william-minkle&pid=196591207&fhid=7029

Beer Waste Information from MassDEP

Notice to Local Boards of Health, Restaurants, and other Hospitality Associations about Beer Waste

The closure of restaurants, bars, and other venues due to the COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in an abundance of beer and other food waste going stale in these establishments. Beer, in particular, has a very high Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), making it what is referred to as “high strength wastewater”, which also has a very low pH. The combination of the beer’s high BOD and low pH, make disposing of stale beer in the sewer system extremely problematic, with the potential to cause damaging conditions within the sewer system and to potentially overwhelm the receiving wastewater treatment plant. Given the current volumes of stale beer and other food waste across the Commonwealth, it is imperative that it is disposed of properly. MassDEP and MWRA recommend:

  1. Stale beer and other food waste should not be disposed of down the drain.
  2. Restaurants, bars, and other venues should work with distributor to collect full and partially full kegs.
  3. Through MassDEP or RecyclingWorks, distributors and other venues can explore options for disposal at anaerobic digestion facilities. More information can be found here. For assistance, contact RecyclingWorks at 888-254-5525 or email info@recyclingworksma.com.

ERMA – Funding for Households Impacted by Coronavirus Crisis

 

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 Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development provides up to $4,000 of direct funding to eligible households.

ERMA can help to fund payments with rent or mortgage arrears accrued no earlier than April 1, 2020 or upcoming rent or mortgage payments.

In order to be eligible for ERMA, 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 flyer: ERMA_Flyer

Please click here for our press release: ERMA 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.

Funds available for households experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19

RCAP Solutions offering Funds to assist households Experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic and State of Emergency

(Worcester, MA) – 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 Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) program, funded by The CARES Act through the Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD), can provide up to $4,000 of direct funding to eligible households.

ERMA can help to fund payments with rent or mortgage arrears accrued no earlier than April 1, 2020 or upcoming rent or mortgage payments. In order to be eligible for ERMA, 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), and have a housing emergency due to a financial hardship related to, or exacerbated by, the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are pleased to offer this new financial assistance program through DHCD to households in Worcester County,” stated Karen A. Koller, President & CEO of RCAP Solutions. “This vital resource allows RCAP to fulfil its mission and support a wide range of residents, with a variety of income levels. It is critical that families 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 please 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.

AmazonSmile customers can now support RCAP Solutions in the Amazon shopping app!

AmazonSmile customers can now support RCAP Solutions in the Amazon shopping app on iOS and Android mobile phones! Simply follow these instructions to turn on AmazonSmile and start generating donations.

  1. Open the Amazon Shopping app on your device
  2. Go into the main menu of the Amazon Shopping app and tap into ‘Settings’
  3. Tap ‘AmazonSmile’ and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the process

If you do not have the latest version of the Amazon Shopping app, update your app. Click here for instructions.