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Confused about how to access COVID-19 relief resources? Team of Spokane librarians can help

It can’t be any more confusing than the Dewey Decimal System.

With its public libraries temporarily closed, the city has redeployed more than a dozen library employees to staff a new, regional helpline that will aid residents and businesses in navigating the complex web of assistance programs sprouting up to alleviate the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus.

Governments and agencies are springing into action to provide help to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but their services can be difficult to track and comprehend.

“It all can be very daunting, though, and overwhelming,” Mayor Nadine Woodward said.

To make it less so, the city of Spokane and its team of about 20 librarians are stepping in to help.

The financial helpline can be reached at (509) 625-6650 and will operate Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and offer assistance to any individual or business in the area.

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs said the council had asked its staff to compile the resources available to individuals and businesses during the pandemic and that “it took several of them several days, hours and hours to come with all the options.”

“We realized that very few people can become experts on all the programs,” Beggs added.

But by training a select few as experts, Beggs said they could share that knowledge with everyone.

“Librarians are perfect. They are professional knowledge gatherers,” Beggs said.

Woodward, too, noted that librarians were a nice fit for the job.

“They are the connectors in our community to resources,” Woodward said.

Andrew Chanse, director of Spokane Public Library, said librarians have been researching financial assistance programs to prepare for the hotline’s launch – all while working from home.

“Given the situation, we’re just really honored to be able to continue our support of the community and contribute to the overall recovery of the region,” Chanse said.

The library has not had to lay off any employees, despite the closure of all its branches. Instead, the employees have been focused on enhancing the library’s digital services, Chanse said.