Mississippi County EOC utility assistance funds thinning

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - As the summer temperatures continue to climb, the Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission is offering support to county residents in need of assistance with utility bills.

EOC began administering the Arkansas Home Energy Assistance Program for the summer July 8. Heat Coordinator Johnny Moore says funds are depleting quickly. "Grants and funds are being cut," he said.

The program is divided into two categories - regular assistance and crisis assistance.  Moore said EOC mailed applications to about 1,900 elderly and disabled Mississippi County residents the Department of Human Services pre-qualified for regular assistance. An estimated 1,200 people sent completed applications back to EOC for processing. About 500 more applications were processed during the first week of the program once it was opened to the general public.

Moore says the money available for regular assistance was exhausted days after the program started.

"Our funds were so limited in our regular program until basically after about two days after we opened it up to the public most of the funds were already gone," he said."We're seeing more people that are without jobs, and then that means that they're fitting the category more and more. Some are moving into homes with parents and things like that," he said.

Blytheville resident Castella Wright is grateful for the utility assistance program. "In the summertime it helps because your bill be so high," she said. "I'm on a fixed income."

Crisis assistance funding is still available.

"When a person comes into our office and what they'll have is a shut-off notice, and basically with that shut-off notice we will pay up to $700 on that," Moore said."We're just trying to do what we can to spread as much as we can."

"It's a shortage of jobs here in Blytheville so lots of people need assistance," said Wright.

The deadline for the summer assistance program is September 30 or when no more funding is available.

The Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission is located at 1400 N. Division.  Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The telephone number is (870)776-1054.

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved.