April 8 COVID-19 Briefs: Big Y Closures; BRTA Advisories

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Big Y Supermarkets Close for Easter, Monday

All Big Y stores will be closed Easter Sunday, April 12, and Monday, April 13, and all Big Y Express gas stations will be closed Easter Sunday. 
 
"We want to thank all of our retail heroes," said Charles D'Amour, president and CEO of Big Y Foods, Inc. "We hope that this break will allow our employees to spend more time with their loved ones and give them much-needed rest."
 
During the break, all stores will continue to be restocked and cleaned in preparation for reopening on Tuesday, April 14. Store hours will remain the same, including reserved hours of 7 to 8 a.m. for customers who are 60 and older or have compromised immune systems put in place on March 19.
 
Target stores will also be closed on Easter Sunday.
 

Pittsfield Council on Aging Curtails Transportation

The Council on Aging is reducing transportation runs to better protect residents and drivers from COVID-19.
 
"As many in our senior community have been firmly adhering to the stay-at-home advisory, we have seen a steady decline in rides and the cancellation of appointments. That said, we also know, through our check-ins with seniors, that there's been an increase of delivery services by pharmacies, and in some
cases, grocery stores, so they are getting the resources that they need during this time and that's important," said Executive Director James Clark.
 
The modified congregate meal site will continue at the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center. The take-and-go meals can be picked up at the center between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Reservations must continue to be made by noon the previous day.
 
This option is available to seniors who are currently enrolled in the Meals on Wheels
program and on the congregate meal site roster. Contact Elder Services at 413-499-0524 to determine eligibility.
 
Offices are closed but staff can be reached at 413-499-9346 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
 

BRTA Urging Riders to Adhere to CDC Advisories

Berkshire Regional Transportation Authority is providing transportation for critical trips only. The BRTA highly recommends all customers wear a medical or cloth mask to cover their mouth and nose, as recommended by the CDC, while onboard any BRTA vehicle.
 
Visit cdc.gov for a tutorial on how to make a cloth face cover and important information on how to wear it. Also, practice social distancing while riding on the bus; maintain space when seating.
 
All riders must be traveling to a critical, essential destination. Critical trips are defined as work related, vital appointments, or necessary shopping trips. All riders are required to exit the bus at the end of the route, or your stated destination, and may not re-board the same vehicle for a return trip. Multiple or consecutive round trips are not permitted and riders who appear to be loitering will be asked to deboard.
 
For your health and the health of others, if you are sick, have a cough, fever, or other COVID-19 symptoms, do not ride the BRTA bus. Our staff and customers' safety remain important to us.
 

Lenox Affordable Housing Trust Provides Rental Assistance

The Town of Lenox's Affordable Housing Trust is partnering with Construct Inc. to provide emergency rental assistance to Lenox tenants and landlords who find themselves financially struggling during the COVID-19 crisis.
 
The trust is allocating funds received from the local Community Preservation Act surcharge and granted at previous annual town meetings. Applications will be available on the town website and Construct's website, in English and Spanish beginning April 10. 
 
Applications for May rental assistance will be due April 15. To qualify, tenants must make less than 100 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and be able to pay at least 35 percent of income for monthly rent. The trust will provide funds and Construct will administer the program.
 
"There is so much uncertainty in the economy, and people are anxious about their own health, the health of their loved one, and their financial stability. This takes at least one of those stressors off the list," said Marybeth Mitts, chair of the Affordable Housing Trust.
 
This program is in addition to the first-time homebuyer grant program already administered by the Trust, and which recently increased income limits for homebuyers making up to 100 percent of AMI.

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Berkshire Immigrant Center Celebrates National Immigrant Heritage Month

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Beginning June 1, the Berkshire Immigrant Center invites the community to honor the more than 10,000 immigrants in the Berkshires and by joining the annual observance of national Immigrant Heritage Month and helping to launch a $10,000 fundraising campaign for the center.

"During Immigrant Heritage Month, we proudly honor the many ways immigrants make the Berkshires a better place," said BIC Executive Director Michelle Lopez. "This year we are especially grateful for the hundreds of foreign-born doctors, medical technicians, nurses and staff who are caring for people at Berkshire Medical Center, Fairview Hospital, and nursing homes, and for local immigrants who are essential workers at our grocery stores, restaurants and farms."

Since March 20, BIC has raised more than $70,000 for a COVID-19 Relief Fund. Through this fund, BIC has helped more than 140 clients and their families pay for basic needs like rent and utilities.

"We know that so many local people are hurting, both our clients and our supporters, yet even during this crisis people are asking us how they can help," Lopez said.

While 100 percent of emergency relief has been passed through to clients, donations to the Immigrant Heritage Month Campaign help ensure that BIC can serve the local immigrant community in crisis and beyond, including helping immigrants become US citizens. In this year of the U.S. Census count, BIC has also worked diligently to make sure that immigrants are counted and that Berkshire communities thus receive every dollar of federal aid that they should get.

Tax-deductible donations of any amount are welcome online. Contributions can also be made by check made out to Berkshire Immigrant Center and mailed to BIC, 67 East Street, Pittsfield MA 01201.

The center remains the only program in Berkshire County that focuses exclusively on meeting the unique challenges of a continuously growing immigrant and refugee population. In 2018 BIC was named "Best Small Nonprofit" in the state by Massachusetts Nonprofit Network.

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