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‘Huge amount’ of people expected to need utility help as temperatures drop

One mid-Missouri organization is expecting large numbers of families needing assistance to pay electric and gas bills as the temperature get colder.

Central Missouri Community Action processes applications for the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Cole, Howard, Moniteau and Osage counties.

Colita Harvey, housing program manager of Central Missouri Community Action, said last year the organization processed more than 6,000 applications for assistance. The state allocated more than $1.3 million dollars in funding.

“Most of those funds were spent, and whatever wasn’t spent was carried over to the summer,” Harvey said. “The funding is never hardly enough, we are always needing more funding to help the community with the great need.”

The organization processed more applications this summer than average, and Harvey expects that to continue into the winter.

“This year we are expecting a huge amount just because this summer we processed just about the same number of applications for the winter,” Harvey said. “Which lets us know already that our population in this community is getting huge, and also the need is huge as well.”

Once someone applies for assistance, Harvey said it can take up to 30 days to process the application. If it is an emergency and crisis funding is available, CMCA works to process the application within two days.

For elderly and disabled applicants, the program starts Nov. 1. CMCA has already processed around 300 applications for such applicants so individuals can see if they qualify before the program starts.

The program begins for the general public Dec. 1, and individuals can apply starting Nov. 1.

The budget has not been set by the state yet, Harvey said, but she expects and hopes the program’s funding to be the same as last year.

“Just like every year, I hope we spend all of the money,” Harvey said. “Just to show the state that the need is there and that we can assist all the families that are requesting the services.”

A representative with the Missouri Department of Social Services said LIHEAP is funded through a federal block grant. In federal fiscal year 2019 the LIHEAP block grant to Missouri was $80,257,559. The department estimates that in fiscal 2019 LIHEAP provided assistance to 109,061 households in Missouri.

Harvey spoke about the importance of the program, mentioning for many families, when their utilities get shut off, they also face eviction. “W e are preventing homelessness and also making sure families remain stable by keeping their lights on, and gas, making sure they’re warm as well,” Harvey said.

Jerome Middleton was at CMCA Wednesday and has used the program in the past. “Where I live at now, I need all the heat that I can get,” Middleton said.

“This is a beautiful and great program, and if you do need assistance and help out, I advise everyone to come down here.” Middleton said.

Middleton said don’t wait as the temperatures are dropping.

“It’s getting cold out there, so if you need the help and the heat, you better get on down here,” he said.

Watch ABC17 News at 6 for the full story.


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