Counselor Mike Escol heps an applicant find out what assistance he is eligible to receive through the EarnBenefits program located at the parish of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer.

The addition of six Catholic parishes as referral sites for the EarnBenefits program is making assistance available to county families experiencing a financial crisis.

Since August, the program has assisted 226 individuals and 113 households at St. Joseph, Cockeysville; St. Clare, Essex; St. Clement Mary Hofbauer, Baltimore; St. Rita’s, Baltimore; St. Gabriel, Windsor Mill; and St. Clement, Halethorpe. Resource referrals include assistance with housing, food, utilities, health insurance and prescription medicine.

Sister Joan Marie Stief of Parish Social Ministries worked with parish priests to place the program in areas where the need was greatest.

Katie Rose Imbriano, who operates the program with Cathy Demeroto, says that applying for assistance is a first for the majority of the applicants. “Most of our applicants have lost jobs or have jobs where their hours have been cut,” says Imbriano. Divorce, illness or a lack of health insurance have also been listed as causes for applicants’ financial difficulties.

“Applicants receive services based on income eligibility, and we enter their information electronically to immediately find out what they qualify to receive,” says Imbriano.

Fifty-year-old Rosedale resident George M.* learned of the program when he came to the church’s food pantry. “I’ve been laid off from work for a year after losing a job as a painter and prior to that I worked for 16 years as a steelworker at The Point,” he says. The assistance he received through EarnBenefits has helped him pay his utilities and apply for food stamps.  “I’m still looking for work, having applied for my trucker’s license,” he says. “The program has really given me hope that things are turning around.”