Although an influx of federal stimulus money designed to help low-income residents pay monthly bills has mitigated state cuts, soaring demand has nevertheless strapped available resources, the Payson case manager for the Gila County Community Action Program said Wednesday.
Because of CAP’s large number of funds, Dorine Prine said discerning a net loss or gain is difficult.
However, with demand up 57 percent this year over last, Prine’s monthly funding quickly depletes. Stimulus money has allowed her to help more people, she said. This past year, she’s assisted 467 households.
However, “people are still coming in droves.” So although Prine is helping more people, she’s also turning more away.
For example, the federal stimulus package will provide CAP with $6,800 each month to help people pay rent or mortgage and utilities at least through this fiscal year.
However, funding for the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program decreased from roughly $5,500 per month in October 2008 to roughly $3,000 per month this October.
“That sounds like a lot of money,” Prine said of the stimulus funds. “But if you consider that rent or mortgage is running an average of $600 to $800 per month, that doesn’t go very far.” She added, “I help as many people as I possibly can.”
CAP, which began in 1980, receives funding from state, county and federal agencies and local utility companies to help residents who meet federal poverty guidelines pay for utilities and rent or mortgage.
People receive help on a first come, first served basis until the money runs out in any given month. Those who arrive too late must wait until the next month, or seek help from another local service agency.
“It’s really hard to have to tell somebody, ‘I can’t help you with rent,’” Prine said.
Additionally, so-called “quick fixes” are prohibited. A person must show that their financial situation will change.
Perhaps they’re waiting for unemployment. Perhaps they’ve proceeded through job interviews.
“Payson is a very giving and generous type of town,” Prine said.
“When I can’t help, there are other sources that will be able to help.” Namely, other social service agencies like St. Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army, or churches.
Within the next several months, CAP will begin a new holistic case management program, helping families in crisis.
The agency received $243,000 federal stimulus dollars to help re-house families in immediate danger of homelessness.
With crisis abated, case workers will help families develop job and financial literacy skills. With this money, CAP can help families more than once in a 12-month period.
“Once you fall into that hole, it’s hard to get back up on your feet and stay stable,” said Malissa Buzan, program manager. “They’re just one catastrophe away from being homeless again.”