By ROSIE GITHINJI
MT. VERNON — —
After being informed they would not be receiving money for food and shelter assistance programs last year, United Way has announced organizations will receive a 100 percent increase in funds.
Jefferson County has been selected to receive $17,617 to supplement emergency food and shelter programs throughout the county, according to Rhonda Edmonson, executive director of United Way of Southern Illinois.
The money may be a decrease from funding in prior years, but Edmonson said, “We are ecstatic to be getting any amount of funding for 2012.”
Organizations had been receiving supplemental funding for the last 30 years, Edmonson said. She explained the formula for amounts dispersed is calculated on unemployment rates and poverty statistics in order to determine what counties qualify.
Edmonson explained that in order to get part of the $119.7 million, the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program required that counties have 300 or more unemployed people and more than an 11.5 percent unemployment rate or 14.4 percent rate of poverty, according to FEMA. Jefferson County did not receive funds in 2011 because both rates were two percentage points higher than the thresholds.
“Last year they raised the amounts so high we didn’t qualify,” she said. “It’s a very complicated formula they use.”
The money can only be used for emergency assistance, such as shelter or food assistance. Homeless shelters, soup kitchens and organizations that assist with rent or utilities can qualify for the assistance.
“It’s very restrictive and those guidelines are set by the national board,” Edmonson said. “We have some of the smaller food pantries that depend a lot of that money and then it was just gone. I think they survived, but this is certainly a blessing that we qualified this year.”
Edmonson said the funds will be coming in any day now.
“It’s important that we be ready since the timing is so late,” she said, adding the funding is usually received in February or March and organizations have until December to use the money.
Agencies who wish to apply for help can do so until Dec. 7, and those who receive funds will be allowed to spend until March of 2013.
“They have to spend money up to the last $5 or they have to refund it back. If you don’t spend them [funds], you lose them,” Edmonson said. “It’s really not difficult for the organizations to spend the money. It won’t be a problem.”
She said the local board is planning on how the money will be dispersed. Organizations will each receive different amounts, based on information they provide.
“The amount of money we receive is based upon need,” she said. “I wish the need wasn't so great.”
The application can be picked up at the United Way offices, Edmonson said. After the applications have all been turned in the local board members will meet to decide how much each agency will get.
Qualifying agencies have to meet the following criteria:
Public or private voluntary agencies interested in applying for Emergency Food and Shelter Program funds must contact Edmonson at the United Way of South Central Illinois at 618-242-8000 for an application.