Friday, January 17, 2014

Federal funds available to those struggling with utilities

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
During Monday morning’s Webster County Fiscal Court meeting, Judge Executive Jim Townsend reported that there was approximately $9,000 worth of federal funds available to assist local residents with their utility bills this winter.

The funds come from The Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP), which was established on March 24, 1983 by a jobs stimulus bill. That legislation created a National Board, chaired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that consisted of representatives of the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, The Jewish Federations of North America, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, The Salvation Army and United Way Worldwide.
“We didn’t qualify for the regular money this year because our unemployment rate was too low,” said Townsend. “But we did still get some funding.”
Normally the county works with Audubon Area Community Services to distribute the money, but Audubon Area is no longer handling those services. They have, however, agreed to help the county determine applicant eligibility.
“We have always used these funds for utilities,” said Treasurer Paula Guinn. “We have two nice food shelters in the county, which the court has helped to fund. Food requests should go through those facilities.”
Residents interested in applying for those funds can submit an application with Audubon Area Community Services in Henderson.
Guinn said that funds will not be available for two or three more weeks. She also explained that the court would send checks directly to the utility companies, not to the customers themselves.

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