The COVID-19 pandemic was a setback for many individuals and families as corporations and businesses had to cut back on employees. As a result, many of these individuals lost their jobs and could not afford to pay their rent and mortgage in addition to basic household essentials. According to the Pulse survey, in October 2021, over 20 million households reported that they did not have enough to eat while over 12 million households were behind on rent. Toward the end of 2021, unemployment benefits had expired for most of these individuals along with other economic troubles such as the increasing cost of goods due to the global supply chain issues.

Homelessness continues to be a major problem for those in the metro Atlanta area, due to the exponential increase in rent and housing prices over the recent months. The Rapid Re-Housing Program at the Asian American Resource Center helps homeless families find and maintain housing by creating pathways for homeless families to enter the financial mainstream for their future. Families and individuals are able to access financial education and develop essential job skills for employment. In addition, the Homelessness Prevention Program assists families facing imminent eviction in the state of Georgia by offering short-term rental and utility assistance to stop homelessness and pending evictions.

In order to support both the Rapid Re-Housing and Homeless Prevention Programs, the Jackson EMC Foundation has partnered with AARC. The Jackson EMC Foundation is a 501 (c)3 organization set up to represent the members of Jackson EMC by awarding the funds collected from Operation Round Up to charities. Operation Round Up is a program where Jackson EMC members have the option to round up each month’s electric bill to the next whole dollar amount. The amount can be as little as one penny or as much as 99 cents; the annual average contribution for each member is approximately $6. Contributions toward Operation Round Up are tax-deductible. With the funds from Operation Round Up, Jackson EMC provides financial assistance and charitable needs to the ten counties served by Jackson EMC: Banks, Barrow, Clarke, Franklin, Gwinnett, Hall, Jackson, Lumpkin, Madison, and Oglethorpe. Within the first year of launching Operation Round Up, the program was able to raise more than $800,000 to benefit organizations and individuals. The grants awarded from Operation Round Up are chosen on a monthly basis and have been awarded to organizations such as YMCA, public libraries, Boys & Girls Clubs, Children’s Center, food banks, and other charitable organizations.

In 2020 alone, AARC was able to pay rental assistance for over 63 individuals anywhere between one to four months in addition to providing resources in the community so that clients are able to have a better quality of life. AARC is grateful to have partnered with Jackson EMC for the grant opportunity to better serve the community of metro Atlanta.