With budget cuts across every level and in every department in state and federal government, the federal allotment for heating assistance is one of the many things that have become scarce for those in need.
According to Shania Adkins, Executive Director for CareNet, after four days of taking applications, more than half of the federal funds available for heating assistance to Maconians is gone.
“We started taking applications on Nov. 1 and after two days we had received 121 applications and allocated out $44,000,” said Adkins, who has been the director for CareNet only since June. “The latest numbers show that after four days and 174 applications, we have used $59,000 of the $99,000 available. We will continue to take applications until all the funds have been used.”
This is the first year that CareNet has taken over the responsibility of allocating the federal funds for heating assistance, which while the funds are federal dollars, are distributed on the state level. The $99,000 available was through the Crisis Intervention Program and has historically been allocated by the Department of Social Services (DSS).
According to Jane Kimsey, director of DSS, the shift in responsibility is due to a lack of staff.
“DSS did not have the staff to administer the heating assistance programs this year,” said Kimsey. “NC FAST, North Carolina Families Accessing Services through Technology, a new electronic system of eligibility determination is being implemented at DSS beginning in the Food and Nutrition Services program. The conversion to this new system is requiring additional staff time, sometimes as much as up to four more hours of time to process a case. All DSS staff are working to support the implementation of NC FAST over the next several months. CareNet was contracted to administer all of the heating assistance funds and is receiving the limited federal administrative funding DSS received.”
According to both Adkins and Kimsey, the transition process was intended to make it easier for Maconians to access the funds and to ensure that people in need were served as efficiently as possible.
“It has not been as difficult as we thought it would be,” said Adkins who was concerned with being able to administer the program while keeping up with the day-today operations of CareNet. “With the help from DSS and making sure our volunteers were prepared, we have been able to handle the transition well.”
“We have had several positive comments from applicants regarding CareNet providing lunch and snacks, as well as giving applicants food to take home,” said Kimsey. “DSS staff provided training prior to implementation, and DSS staff are onsite assisting CareNet staff with the start-up of these federal heating assistance programs.”
According to Adkins, when the $99,000 is gone, there is very little that can be done to help those in need this winter. “We don't have any emergency funds set aside, but the need is going to be there regardless of what the weather is,” said Adkins. “From my understanding the funding has been significantly reduced, so we can just hope and pray for another mild winter.”
Kimsey noted that early winter predictions are anything but mild, proving an uphill battle for Maconians. “Funding has been significantly reduced and if early winter weather predictions are realized, then, yes, there will be needs for heating assistance that will not be met,” said Kimsey.
Although the Crisis Intervention Program funds may be depleted, there are other sources of funding that can be utilized. For years CareNet has been in charge of distributing Duke Energy's “Share the Warmth” funds, which according to Adkins, are scheduled to come in some time in mid-December. “The amount of funds we get for Share the Warmth varies each year and although it has not been significant, there has been a decrease each year from my understanding,” said Adkins.
For more information about the heating assistance programs available in Macon County, contact CareNet at (828)369-0275.
Library to hold drive for CareNet
The Macon County Public Library invites the public to give to others. The library is collecting non-perishable items to donate to CareNet for Thanksgiving. Donations will be accepted at the library through Nov. 15. Each department at the library has donated a meal to kick off the food drive.
Pasta and Sauces
Cereal (Cold and Hot)
Cough syrup for children