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The Orange County Social Services Agency has been slammed with calls and applications for financial relief since scores of people are out of work due to the state’s stay home order to fight the novel coronavirus. 


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“In the last two weeks we have seen over a 65 increase in our call volume,” said agency director Debra Baetz at a Thursday news conference held through Facebook. 

“We’re averaging about 6,000 calls per day,” Baetz said. “In the last two weeks we have accepted over 12,000 applications in all of our public assistance programs.” 

The Social Service Agency’s relief program hotline had an estimated 25 to 30 minute wait time Thursday afternoon and offers a callback service so residents don’t have to stay on hold. 

The agency’s website encourages people to apply for benefits through the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program. 

The CalWORKS program is geared for low-income families.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also issued an executive order last month, suspending eligibility reevaluations requirements for assistance programs like CalWORKS for three months. 

Meanwhile, the County condensed all of the different relief programs into one website. Not only does it provide direction to laid-off residents, but it also has information there for small business owners trying to stay afloat since the stay home order shut down waves of businesses. 

“We are still answering your calls. Finally we are still issuing emergency benefits,” said Baetz, adding the agency has expanded its hours Monday through Friday, and limited hours on Saturday to take calls and process applications. 

“We’re here to provide critical public assistance benefits,” Baetz said.  

There’s also a website that offers jobs and other resources statewide, which was put together by a collection of companies and nonprofits. 

During a Thursday news conference, Newsom said over 1.6 million unemployment claims have been filed since March 13. 

Over 878,000 unemployment claims were filed last week in California, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Labor. It’s still unclear how many OC residents have filed for unemployment. 

The highest weekly amount someone can get through state unemployment is $450, but the $2 trillion federal relief plan will also add up to $600 a week in order to get people paid close to their normal salaries. 

Many laid off residents have been concerned about paying the rent during the virus pandemic, which led to scores of OC cities adopting temporary eviction ban ordinances. While the timeframe of the bans differs between cities, they all bar any late fees or penalties for back rent. 

While many cities have acted on the issue, the Orange County Supervisors haven’t taken up a countywide measure to temporarily suspend evictions. 

Newsom banned eviction enforcement until May 31, but the renters would still have to plead their case in court. 

In comparison, the Anaheim eviction ban calls for renters to only show their landlords they can’t pay rent because they were laid off or faced a medical crisis during the pandemic — meaning, Anaheim residents won’t have to go to court. 

At Thursday’s news conference, OC officials urged needy residents to use the Second Harvest Food Bank to resupply. 

The food bank’s mass food distribution at the Honda Center on Saturdays turned out thousands of people, who drive up and have food and supplies loaded into their cars.  

Because thousands of residents have been coming out to get food and other supplies, Second Harvest had to hire 120 temporary workers to step in. 

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

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