CLARION — The United Way of Clarion County recently established a relief fund intended to assist local community members impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

United Way of Clarion County Executive Director Melissa Dehner-Fulton said the funds raised through the effort primarily will go to those enduring financial hardships as a result of the pandemic’s economic effects.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s order for all businesses within the state considered "nonlife-sustaining” to close was announced March 19. State police on Monday began enforcing the order, which includes penalties for noncompliant businesses.

“We are focusing on folks that are either going without pay, or significant deferments,” Dehner-Fulton said. “We’re looking at hourly workers and those who earn based on commission.”

The fund also will help those who earn money through tips or those affected by school closures.

“We’re also seeing people who are maybe not going to get the services they need because of the effects on nonprofit organizations,” Dehner Fulton said. The United Way, she said, has not been immune to struggles and had to cancel a fundraiser because of the pandemic.

“The agencies relying on funds from United Way aren’t going to get them,” Dehner-Fulton said. “The fund will be looking at other things, like housing and utility needs, and whether people are going to get the basic services they need and rely on.”

Erich Spessard, Clarion County assistant district attorney and United Way board president, addressed the outbreak’s consequences in a post on the organization’s Facebook page. The post said almost 25 percent of working adults in Clarion County are living paycheck to paycheck.

“This will put serious pressure on operating budgets and their ability to provide valuable services now and into the future,” Spessard said in the post.

“United Way of Clarion County is committed to standing with our communities and supporting those impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Together, we will overcome this pandemic by making sure the most vulnerable among us are protected.”

So far, United Way’s COVID-19 relief fund has raised about $1,500.

Dehner-Fulton said there are several individuals who have indicated they will match donations once the fundraiser is finished. A goal of raising at least $5,000 has been set.

“We basically want to raise as much as we can to help as much as we can,” Dehner-Fulton said. “We hope we can help people with their basic needs as much as possible.”

In the meantime, other United Way fundraisers are expected to continue, including the organization’s annual neighbor campaign fund.

Those interested in donating to the relief fund should go to the United Way of Clarion County website at uwclarionco.org for more information, or visit the Facebook fundraiser — United Way’s COVID-19 Clarion County Relief Fund. Donations can also be sent by mail to UWCC, P.O. Box 207, Clarion PA 16214.

For more information on the relief fund, send an email to clarionunitedway@verizon.net or call (814) 226-8760.

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