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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The coronavirus is forcing thousands of people in the Mid-South to be without work.

A partnership between the Memphis Housing Authority and staffing agency VACO is working to help get some cash in the pockets of those laid off and get critical information to those living in public housing.

“It’s something that can help those who live in public housing, yes, but it’s helping me right now because I can’t work,” Jackie Murray said.

Murray is a tour conductor with A Tour of Possibilities, an African American history tour throughout the Bluff City. She’s also an actress and singer. 

Her job relies heavily on tourism and entertainment, industries virtually shut down right now in the COVID-19 pandemic, so she isn’t working her normal jobs.

But she was chosen to be one of about 50 people to work with staffing company VACO.

She’s now calling thousands of families or elderly people who are part of the Memphis Housing Authority. 

“We’ve been calling just to check on people, just to make sure they’re OK,” she said.

The goal is to reach people who might be vulnerable to COVID-19 and who might not have access to the information and resources needed.

“We’re just checking on you, making sure everything is OK, do you have any symptoms, and if you do. we can steer you in the right direction where you can get some help,” Murray said.

Making the calls from home and dealing with her own financial hurdles, Murray is paid by money from the Community Foundation.

“Some of the older folks that I’ve been talking to you, you know, they might live alone,” she said. “They just needed an ear, even if it’s just for a couple minutes. They just needed an ear. I feel blessed to be able to provide that for them.”

Murray is proud of the work she now gets to do.

“Memphis is just one of those cities where you just go in, and no matter where you go, people are kind-hearted, at least that’s been my experience,” she said.

It’s unclear how long the calls will last, but VACO said they had the funding for almost 800 hours of call time