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As the world adjusts to a new normal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, families throughout Albania are desperately seeking basic aid. In response to confirmed coronavirus cases within the borders, the Government of Albania took swift action: closing schools, non-essential business, and clearing the streets within a week. With many families still recovering from the 6.4 magnitude earthquake in November, and sources of income suddenly cut off or drastically lowered, local governments were inundated with requests for assistance. Access to services (including grocery stores and pharmacies) was also drastically impacted, with many no longer able to travel as public transportation abruptly ceased and closed borders eliminated support from emigrated family members. As fiscal packages and budgets for 2020 had already been approved, how could mayors respond to this increased need from their citizens?

In these times of duress, municipalities looked to USAID’s Planning and Local Governance Project (PGLP) for support for thousands of families facing food insecurity. These families encompassed the most vulnerable populations, including the elderly, persons with disabilities, single mothers, and victims of domestic violence. In response, PLGP’s Municipal Expert provided virtual coaching to finance officers and suggested alternative ways to organize Municipal Council Meetings in our partner municipalities of Bulqiza, Cerrik, Dibra, Kamza, Librazhd, and Pogradec.

By reassessing their municipal budgets, mayors were able to reallocate funds with appropriate approval from Municipal Councils, increasing the percentage of their total annual budgets designated as Emergency Funding and enabling the distribution of food and aid packets to those in need of this crucial support. Movement of money in this way allows for transparent support to citizens in real time and is an example of the agile response needed as we adjust our focus during this crisis.

In Bulqiza, the Foreign Assistance Coordinator expressed his gratitude, stating, “I would like to thank wholeheartedly the USAID Project for its work and commitment to help the Municipality of Bulqiza with valuable information and recommendations on how to cope with this situation of “Natural Disaster.”

The steps taken in Bulqiza included a reallocation of 3 million ALL (appx. 25,800 USD) to support those in need, including food support for 200 families over two months and a call for volunteers and businesses to contribute their support as well.

“We didn’t have any food left at home. These food packets will feed my family and help us survive in these difficult times,” said a mother of three in Cerrik.

Municipality of Cerrik was able to reallocate monies in their 2020 budget to provide additional emergency funds for economic and food aid for people from vulnerable groups in their community including: Elderly people living alone, People with Disabilities and families in need.

Building a spirit of community and solidarity, USAID continues to support Albania during the current crisis and move forward together to face the challenges ahead as we recover.

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