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Stimulus funds allotted for emergency help
$32,675 will assist needy

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff Writer

Henry County and Martinsville will receive nearly $33,000 in federal stimulus funds to supplement emergency food and shelter programs in the area, the Salvation Army announced Monday.

The funds, made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, were intended by Congress to help expand emergency food and shelter programs in high-need areas around the country, according to a news release. The funds will be managed by the Salvation Army.

A total of $24,233 was allocated for Henry County, and $8,442 was allocated for Martinsville. That is on top of emergency food and shelter funding for the area that was distributed in January, said Orville Chambless, captain of the local Salvation Army unit.

In January, about $48,000 was distributed for Henry County and about $16,000 was distributed for Martinsville, Chambless said. Various factors are considered when the money is allocated, he said, adding that an area's unemployment rate is one of the most important.

Martinsville's unemployment rate stood at 20.8 percent in March, while Henry County's was 14.8 percent.

"Because Martinsville and Henry County's rates are so high on the scale, we received an increase this year," Chambless said.

The National Emergency Food and Shelter Programs (EFSP) Board, which is chaired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, directed local EFSP boards to determine the areas of greatest need and disburse the stimulus funds, Chambless said.

He said the local board, which is made up of representatives of agencies such as the United Way, American Red Cross, Salvation Army and religious groups, identified the greatest needs locally as emergency assistance with utility and rent/mortgage payments and emergency shelter.

To qualify for emergency assistance, a person must have received a utility shut-off notice or an eviction notice, Chambless said. The number of people in crisis has climbed during the past few years, he said.

The Salvation Army alone is seeing 15 to 20 families each day in need of emergency aid, he said. That compares with between eight and 10 families at this time last year, he said.

Those families do not repeat during the month, Chambless said, because the agency can use federal funds to assist a single family in crisis only once per year.

The need for emergency shelter, due either to homelessness, fire or other causes, also has increased locally. Chambless said that during the past three years, the number of people seeking emergency shelter aid from the Salvation Army increased from seven or eight people three years ago to more than 30 last year.

The amount of money people need to get through a crisis also has increased, Chambless said. Where utility bills averaged $150 to $175 a month in recent years, they now average $300 to $400 a month, largely due to rate increases, he said.

The Salvation Army is not the only agency that helps people in crisis. Grace Network, the Henry-Martinsville Social Services department and others also provide assistance. Officials with those organizations also have reported increased demand in recent months.

Any nonprofit group may make an appointment for its clients for information about assistance through EFSP funding, Chambless said. Those appointments should be made with case manager Judy Nolen at the Salvation Army.

Other individuals seeking assistance must be referred by social services to set up an appointment, he said.

"We do that so if there are any other (assistance) programs available, social services can hook people into those programs before they send them on to us for emergency assistance," he said.

Any 501(c)3 organization that would like to be considered for future funding should address a letter to the local EFSP board at P.O. Box 551, Martinsville, Va., the release said. For more information, call the Salvation Army at 638-7259.


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