The signs went up Monday, March 23, outside of all Mahube-Otwa's offices in its five-county service area: CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the front doors of the Detroit Lakes offices of Mahube-Otwa are now locked — but just because people can't come into the front desk to request help doesn't mean they can't access the many programs and services available, says Mahube-Otwa Executive Director Liz Kuoppala.

"We want to continue to provide services, so we put drop boxes out in front of all of our offices so people could drop off applications and forms and other documents," said Kuoppala, adding that employees not working from home check those boxes regularly, so the documents can be processed as promptly as possible.

Employees not currently working from home include those employed by Mahube-Otwa's Head Start program, which remains open to serve the children of people working in areas of "essential service," such as health care, emergency management and law enforcement.

"Both Head Start and our child care partners are prioritizing those groups," said Kuoppala, in accordance with the mandate issued by Gov. Tim Walz.

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"All of our other services we are doing remotely," she continued — services such as energy assistance, weatherization and other energy-related programs; Medicare counseling and other senior services; homelessness prevention and housing/rent assistance.

"For energy assistance, send in an application or give us a call," Kuoppala said. "We're still processing those every day. With weatherization, we can't go into people's homes right now, so we're focusing on planning. We also continue to help people every day with rent assistance and finding housing, and we're doing what we can to connect seniors with the the things they need and qualify for ... we do all of this over the phone or through other technology."

One service that has been suspended temporarily, however, is Mahube-Otwa's Tax Aide program, mainly due to the deadline for filing both federal and state income taxes being extended to July 15 for this year.

"We're hopeful that this will pass and we'll be able to help people (with their taxes) again, but we're not making any promises," Kuoppala said.

"We're doing everything we can to help people navigate this new normal," she added.

For more information, call 218-847-1385, visit mahube.org or slip a note into the drop box outside the local Mahube-Otwa office. If you would like answers to your questions, include contact information with the note.

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