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Federal funding for utility program is low this year

By Heather Hourigan, Reporter, heather.hourigan@kmiz.com
Published On: Dec 05 2013 05:33:09 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 05 2013 05:40:56 PM CST
COLUMBIA, Mo. -

The cold weather is moving into Columbia, causing Central Missouri Community Action to worry about their utility assistance program that is running out of funding.

The Low Income Home and Energy Assistance Program, also called LIHEAP, provides financial help to the elderly, disabled, and poor with their utility bills.

Last year the program helped nearly 200,000 households in Missouri.

The needs for LIHEAP have been increasing, though the funding is decreasing. There has been a steady loss of support, and a delay in funds due to the government shutdown.

"It was almost a wait-and-see game. I'll be honest, we almost had to shut down the program. But we didn't," said Angela Hirsh, community services director at CMCA.

Now CMCA is running a program with less money than ever before. This year more people need help than last year so adjustments had to be made.

"We've made the conscious decision to take the program out of the counties and now we process all the applications from a centralized location here," said Hirsch.

This cuts back on administrative roles. In the past five years, CMCA has had to cut 20 positions that worked to provide LIHEAP services.

National budget cuts to LIHEAP continue over the years. In 2010 the program was receiving more than $5 billion. In 2014, that is down more than $2 billion.

"They are cutting levels back due to sequestration on all levels of domestic programs so that includes anti-poverty programs like LIHEAP," said Hirsch.

Other programs in mid-Missouri are Citizens Assisting Seniors and Handicapped (CASH) and Heat Energy Light Program (HELP). CASH and HELP are administrated through the Columbia Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services.

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