CHEYENNE – The past few months have not been easy for Rita Negrette.

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged on through the summer, the Cheyenne resident has been managing the responsibility of caring for her young grandson, Dean, while keeping them both safe.

“I want to make sure he’s taken care of and has things to do, because staying at home is not the best thing,” Negrette said. “It might be for me, but it’s not for him ... it’s been a difficult summer, but we’re making it.”

The cost of child care left Negrette with few alternatives for her grandson, but through a program run by Community Action of Laramie County and the Wyoming Department of Health, Negrette will now have a few more resources to get through these uncertain times.

She was one of a few older caregivers who received a $575 check at a ceremony Wednesday outside the Community Action of Laramie County building in Cheyenne.

To qualify for the checks, which were funded with federal stimulus money, residents’ income had to fall below a certain threshold, and caregivers had to be at least 55 and raising relatives under the age of 18.

Patrick Brady, who chairs the Community Action of Laramie County board, said the checks aim to help elder caregivers handle some of their day-to-day expenses, such as rent, utilities and other needs, as the pandemic has strained many people’s checkbooks.

“COVID-19 has really hit these families hard,” Brady said. “They’re all within vulnerable populations, or at least the grandparents are.”

Several checks had already been given out to other families before the ceremony Wednesday. With many of the caregivers preparing to send their youngsters back to school next month, Community Action of Laramie County, which is broadly dedicated to reducing local poverty, also helps the caregivers obtain temporary guardianship over their relatives to help with school registration.

For people like Negrette, those extra efforts from the local organization have made a world of difference.

“Even doing the paperwork is not that easy,” Negrette said. “Because I want that always to be taken care of for (Dean), for his medical, dental, everything. It is awesome to have this organization to help us out.”

Tom Coulter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at tcoulter@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @tomcoulter_.

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