Every year the federal government makes funds available to low income households to offset the high cost of winter heating. LIHEAP or Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (or EAP) helps thousands of citizens in Fort Wayne and all over Indiana. The program assists with a one-time payment on heating and electric bills and the prevention of service disconnect from November to mid-March. March 15th marks the end of the Energy Assistance Program’s six month’s moratorium, which means that utility companies can disconnect service to those who have been unable to pay their bills.
Each year, more citizens are unable to make ends meet during this time of year. Community resources from benevolent organizations are strained and community leaders face a true crisis. Because of these emergency situations, I formed the Community Partnership Summits, which brought together the major social service organizations that provide utility assistance. Through this meeting, agencies shared their program information and discussed the availability (or lack) of funds. This meeting gave us a chance to develop a plan to meet the needs of our community by streamlining the distribution of aid and by reducing the duplication of services.
I’m pleased to announce that a second group has been formed. The energy assistance group meets monthly at the Wayne Township Trustee Office and consists of utility companies, social service organizations and faith based benevolent representatives. This winter has been full of surprises with below zero temperatures, floods and ice storms. These hardships add to the troubles of those in poverty and in turn, affect service providers. This year, we will combine our Community Partnership Summit with our monthly energy assistance meeting in an attempt to create a sensible pathway and avoid the “runaround” for our clients.
This year, as we discuss how we will handle referrals and resources, we are inviting several leaders of the faith-based community. We want to improve our outreach and collaborative efforts. We already work very closely with several Wayne Township churches, but there are many more that we want to include.
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