Karidat Social Services helped about 500 people with food assistance last month, according to Lauri Ogumoro, the Catholic social service organization’s executive director.
For the month of February alone, Karidat saw a 36% increase in the number of people seeking food assistance, she said. She expects this number to go up and not just with food assistance.
“Due to the reduced income, people will be asking for rental assistance as well,” she said.
By March 15, the CNMI government will start implementing Austerity Fridays, which means no government offices on Fridays, and this is expected to result in more hardships for people affected. The local economy is in freefall as the coronavirus outbreak in China has resulted in a drop in tourism numbers from the CNMI’s main markets of China and Korea.
“We are really concerned about the broader community and how folks depend on Karidat, so we try and think of solutions to help,” Ogumoro said.
The main problem is that, by March 31, Karidat will run out of funds and will be completely dependent on donations and canned food drives, Ogumoro said. Karidat has reached out to the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa to ask parishes to conduct canned food drives to help restock their pantry. Also, Karidat has put together a grant application to Catholic Charities to get additional funding, not only for the economic crisis brought by the COVID-19 outbreak but also from the lingering effects of Super Typhoon Yutu, which hit the CNMI in Odtober 2018.
Anyone will be eligible to ask for help from Karidat, but Ogumoro said that they will prioritize people who’ve been severely affected by shortened hours and layoffs.
Karidat is currently only giving out food and some rental assistance. They will also be having a thrift shop that is going to open as soon as they are ready to go.
“We are looking for volunteers to help because of a very small staff,” she added. (Chevy Alipio)