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Direct CARES Act Award Boosts Billings Nonprofit Supporting People With Disabilities

Two men stand by tables heaped with cleaning supplies.
Jess Sheldahl
Yellowstone Public Radiollo
Executive Director of LIFTT Carlos Ramalho (right) and Jed Barton (left) Outreach and Government Affairs Coordinator stand in front of boxes full of supplies for COVID-19 prevention kits for their clients on June 17, 2020.

A center for independent living in Billings is using funding from the federal CARES Act to support people with disabilities who’ve been impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Carlos Ramalho, executive director at Living Independently For Today and Tomorrow (LIFFT), turns on the lights in the center’s community meeting room.

"So every day, UPS and Fedex come and they deliver some things," Ramalho says.

Through the CARES Act, the federal government awarded LIFTT COVID-19 relief of more than $100,000, which they organization is using to make kits with cleaning supplies as well as offering financial assistance to clients for things such as paying rent and utilities or getting access to technology.

The Administration for Community Living distributed $85 million dollars to Centers for Independent Living nationwide in the same way they disperse regular annual funding.

"So this is hand sanitizer, gloves and liquid soap for washing up hands. You can see that we could only buy one gallon of Clorox. We couldn’t find that product anywhere," Ramalho says.

LIFTT provides advocacy services for people with disabilities in southeastern Montana. Their staff and board of directors are also people with disabilities. Ramalho is deaf and his vision is also impared.

"Our government did a great job in enacting the CARES Act and I know they are working on additional responses," he says. "COVID is not going away soon. This is our new reality. We are working at reinventing LIFTT."