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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • More utility assistance funds would have local impact

  • Earlier this week Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recommended the addition of $3.5 million to a mid-year spending measure for fuel and utility assistance for low-income residents.
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  • Earlier this week Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recommended the addition of $3.5 million to a mid-year spending measure for fuel and utility assistance for low-income residents. Among those quick to applaud the proposal was the North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC).
    “NECAC and its clients would welcome additional funding,” said Brent Engel, public relations officer with NECAC. “We all know that this winter has been colder and snowier than normal. Our service centers have been overwhelmed with requests for help.”
    According to Engel, NECAC has already provided heating assistance to more than 4,000 households this winter, “and many more have bills they just can’t pay. Because this additional funding would be used in the Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP), it would reach the neediest people.”
    ECIP provides up to $800 per income-qualifying household to pay overdue utility bills. Recipients must have received a utility shut-off notice, according to Engel, who added that the other program is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which assists income-qualifying people with paying part of their utility bills up to $450 each.
    While the winter utility assistance season officially ends March 31, Engel says “there are many people out there with bills topping $1,000.”
    “We just urge anyone who needs energy assistance to visit one of our service centers,” he said.
    NECAC began the winter assistance season on Oct. 1 with more than $900,000 in funding. Those dollars quickly vanished.
    “That money ran out in late January, and a supplemental allocation of almost $217,000 was exhausted within a week. That shows the critical nature of this additional funding proposed by the governor,” said Engel.
    The mid-year spending measure was approved last week by the House and was sent to the Senate. House members included about $2.7 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
    Nixon's budget director says the governor's proposal is more consistent with how officials have handled it when state money is available for the program.
    The governor's office says the additional funds would help about 5,600 households statewide. Eligibility requirements are based on income, household size, available resources and responsibility for home energy costs.
     
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