Southampton Town is preparing to get into the home delivery business.
Faced with idled employees working from home, a large fleet of vehicles and local businesses needing a boost, town leaders have initiated an unprecedented effort to allow seniors aged 60 and above to order items from local stores and have them delivered directly to their doors.
Called the All Seniors Assistance Program, or ASAP, the service is "repurposing town government to send stuff to seniors so they can stay home" and avoid contact during the cononavirus outbreak, said town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. The service is scheduled to launch on Monday.
"It's like launching a company in a three or four day period," he said. "There's a tremendous amount of logistics involved."
Seniors will be able to access it next week at the town's website or by calling 631-702-1777, Schneiderman said.
Staffers from all levels of town government will help in the effort, using town vehicles, he added.
Participating vendors will include local drugstores, food vendors and hardware stores, he said. Vendors' phone numbers will be listed on the town's site, and seniors will be able to call them directly, place an order, and request delivery, he said.
"We're seeing a lot of seniors out and about looking for certain things: they need a screwdriver to fix something or batteries for a hearing aid or toilet paper," Schneiderman said. The message: "Don't run out, we'll bring it to you."
The plan is to limit delivery to about 15 items per customer. The effort won't compete with grocery stores that have their own delivery services, although Councilman John Bouvier said it could help seniors who've been frustrated by an inability to find items after summer homeowners scooped up items from local stores.
"We have this early influx of people escaping New York City," he said. "They are all out here now and it’s affecting our food sourcing. People are overbuying, panic buying."
That has "really taxed the food distribution system" and suppliers are struggling to meet demand, Bouvier said, while leaving a lot of year-round seniors struggling to find needed items.
Schneiderman said the effort will also be a way to "help some of our smaller merchants who don't have the staff to do deliveries" and are seeing declines in business because of the pandemic's effects.
Town workers will be trained in safe practices to make deliveries and will wear gloves and masks and follow other sanitary procedures, Schneiderman said.
He expects the effort to ramp up over the next couple of weeks as more seniors, and potential local vendors within the town's borders, hear about it.
"We're hoping we can provide a real service to our local businesses to help them keep going, help them get goods to consumers who need them and help them weather this financial storm," Schniederman said.