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Billings nonprofits feeling economic pinch from coronavirus-related closures

Posted at 6:19 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 20:19:41-04

Billings’ most vulnerable are at a greater risk as the coronavirus crisis sends economic uncertainty over the community, placing more pressure on nonprofits.

Those with the Montana Rescue Mission say they’re reaching a critical time with donations coming to a halt. Meanwhile, the Billings Food Bank has seen an influx in clients because of recent layoffs at restaurants and the service industry.

At the food bank Thursday, bundles of food were positioned neatly in carts, ready to go out to those in need.

Billings Food Bank CEO Sheryle Shandy says the nonprofit is also changing its distribution methods to keep things sanitary and to be mindful of social distancing.

“Well, it's different for us, but it's different for anybody in the country right now,” she said. “There’s been all new clientele because there's so many layoffs in the service industry and, you know, other people are cutting back.”

She said for the time being, clients are encouraged to remain outside in their car, form a line and wait for a staff member to come get them to get their bundle of food.

The food bank allows only one client in at a time and disinfects afterward, said Shandy.

She says, with the increase in food going out those at the food bank have had to dip into supplies at a faster rate.

Meanwhile at the Montana Rescue Mission, officials are also dealing with a major increase in people.

Matt Lundgren with the mission said there are 200 people staying at their men’s and women’s shelters.

“It's a challenging time for us because it's really not business as usual,” he said. “That is double what we had this time last year, so twice as many. So, we're definitely feeling it.”

And Lundgren says donations have come to a halt.

“I think even in the last couple of weeks, with the restaurants and bars closing and other employers laying people off, I think we're starting to see a real influx of people and that's really stretching our resources to the limit,” he said.

That kind of ripple effect felt from the COVID-19 outbreak is stretching food resources thin, said Lundgren.

“You know, when we're serving people, you know, almost 200 people three meals a day, you can realize how fast they go. “

Officials with both organizations say, when it comes to donations, cash is best.

The Montana Rescue Mission relies on local partners for food, but store shelves everywhere aren’t quite stocked. Lundgren said if they get cash, they can buy wholesale.