I’ve been thinking lately about the Wayne Township Trustee Office mission statement which includes the idea that the Trustee’s office has a dual role of countering the effects of the cycle of poverty while maintaining careful guardianship of the taxpayers’ resources. We fulfill this role by offering our clients not only temporary financial assistance but guidance in economical living and in finding employment.
Each one of us decides what our priorities are in life. To make it in life a top priority should be to meet life’s basic necessities. Our township Eligibility Guidelines, which are based on Indiana law, define “basic necessities” to include such things as food, shelter, essential utility services, clothing and medical care. When an individual applies for township assistance, all members of the household must certify their income and verify how their income is expended. We expect clients to use their funds first for basic necessities. When an applicant’s money or resources are spent on items other than basic necessities we consider it “wasting resources” and that may result in a denial of assistance. As individuals are going though the process of applying for assistance, our Investigators help them to prioritize their financial responsibilities and create monthly household budgets that reflect those priorities.
Following are some of the tips we offer for frugal living: strive for an energy efficient home by turning off lights and other appliances when not in use, and reduce your water usage by fixing leaky toilets and faucets. Cook and eat at home; buy food with a longer shelf life in bulk if you can get a better price, and buy less junk food. Drink water instead of soda, fruit punch or beer. Use coupons and watch for sales. Visit the local library instead of renting DVDS, CDs, and purchasing books. Shop at thrift stores like the Goodwill, Salvation Army, and St. Vincent DePaul and make use of the Wayne Township Trustee Office’s Clothing Emporium for free stylish items. Consider ‘lay-away’ over credit card purchases. Cut back or quit smoking, and save your money rather than gambling it away. Not only do our Investigators offer such advice to individuals, but we hold regular classes with guest speakers who teach skills for smart and healthy living.
The Trustee’s office considers whether an applicant’s needs can be met by means other than an expenditure of township money. We expect individuals who are applying for township assistance to also apply for state or federal programs such as SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) through the Family and Social Services Administration and utility bill help through the state’s Energy Assistance Programs. Applicants are expected to do their best to make payments on their utility bills while waiting for assistance from other programs and to use the free tax preparation programs offered in the community.
Under the Township Guidelines a client’s non-cash property that is considered not essential to maintaining the health, safety, or decent living standard of a household is referred to as a “countable asset.” Countable assets are those owned wholly or in part by the applicant or household member who has the legal right to sell or liquidate it. Examples of countable assets include certificates of deposit, bonds, stocks, jewelry, and boats. The Trustee is not obligated to provide continued assistance to households that have not liquidated countable assets or other unnecessary items. Nonessential assets purchased by any member of a household after having applied for township assistance must be liquidated before further assistance can be authorized.
Our goal when working with applicants is to help them move from assistance to independence. We encourage economical living while our Employment Department searches for job openings, shares that information with clients, and posts offerings on our “Wall of Opportunity” (which can be readily viewed at the entrance to our office). In employment training classes we help clients with their resumes, and our Clothing Emporium offers gently-used items and friendly advice to put together outfits to wear to job interviews. Our clients who are seeking employment and don’t have transportation can get help with Citilink bus tickets. Through all of these ways we strive to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of our clients securing employment and regaining control over their financial lives.
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