Energy Assistance Problems

A local agency is trying to recover from major money woes in several counties. Last fall, the Multi-County Community Service Agency office in Clarke County was one of five in East Mississippi to run out of funds for energy assistance. It's now a new year with newly allocated funding, but the same concerns about how long the money will last?

'Between seniors and a lot of folks unemployed, they had multiple requests for services. So, the funds were just not there."

Those are two main reasons that MCCSA Community Service Director, Shirley Deville, says the agency's Clarke County office depleted its energy assistance funds for last year by mid-September.

With about $200 less in federal funding allocated for the county this year, she's concerned that the money will once again run out early.

"We have attempted to prepare for a similar situation in that we're telling people that our funds are limited."

Aside from Clarke County, the agency's federal energy assistance funding for 2012 for: Wayne, Neshoba, Scott and Smith Counties also ran out before the end of the year.

With the new year and a fresh supply of federal funding, the request backlog from last year is now causing a delay in service in Clarke County, where it can take three weeks or longer to talk with the agency's case manager.

'The appointments are based on when services are requested and with one person they can see 6, 7 or may be 8 people a day.'

Deville says allotted funds for energy assistance cannot be saved to meet needs during certain times of the year.

'We can't say, 'OK, I'm going to take this pot of money and hold it until October,' because it's on a first come, first serve basis. If a person comes in and they need assistance we have to pay it.'

This year MCCSA has been allocated almost $1.9 million dollars to provide energy assistance in the 9 counties which it serves.

Of the 9 counties that MCCSA serves, Lauderdale received the largest allotment for energy assistance this year with $584,143. It was followed by Scott which received $255,018 and Neshoba which received $228,862. Then there was Wayne County which received $172,191; Newton and Jasper counties which received $139,497 each; Clarke County which received $135,138; Smith County which received $106,802 and Kemper County which received $80,647 in federal funding for 2013.