Aloha United Way got a record number of calls last month from people throughout Hawaii seeking assistance for shelter, food, utilities, healthcare and other needs, the nonprofit said on Monday.

One-third of the 211 calls, which surged over 1,000%, were from individuals in need of housing and utilities, AUW said. The demand is far greater than the funds the nonprofit has to help as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds.

To respond, AUW is launching a COVID-19 Rent & Utility Assistance program with the financial support of the J. Watumull Fund, Harold K. L. Castle Foundation, HEI Charitable Foundation and American Savings Bank. It has $1.25 million in initial funding.

AUW estimates each $1 million will keep about 900 households housed for a month.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented financial ripple effect in our community,” said Norm Baker, interim AUW president and CEO. “The additional rent and utilities assistance that AUW will provide through CRUA will supplement federal funds and keep vulnerable families from slipping into homelessness.”

The nonprofit said much more funding is needed as need is projected to increase dramatically.

“We are grateful to the businesses and foundations who have already stepped forward to lead the CRUA effort, but more help is needed,” Baker said. “We ask those who are able to help to consider supporting programs like CRUA to keep roofs over peoples’ heads and keep the lights on as our community weathers this crisis together.”

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