Charities: Money to heat homes is either plentiful or exhausted

Pandemic impacting agencies as funding shifts to meet other needs

Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
Posted 12/4/21

A Warrenton-based nonprofit that serves the poor says it has depleted the funding it had available to help people heat their homes this winter.

Agape, the agency that runs Warren County’s …

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Charities: Money to heat homes is either plentiful or exhausted

Pandemic impacting agencies as funding shifts to meet other needs

Posted

A Warrenton-based nonprofit that serves the poor says it has depleted the funding it had available to help people heat their homes this winter.

Agape, the agency that runs Warren County’s largest food pantry and provides a variety of other services, says an increase in need and a change in funding means the agency might not be able to help clients who need assistance to pay their utility bills  or purchase heating supplies over the next month.

Executive Director Michelle Bernth explained that the emerging funding crisis is a result of COVID’s continued economic impact on the poor. Agape saw demand for its energy assistance funding double in 2020 to nearly $19,000, up from $9,800 the year before.

This year, Bernth said Agape has already provided over $16,000 in energy assistance before the start of December, and the agency’s energy funding is exhausted.

“Over the winter months, we usually provide financial assistance to almost 100 families. Right now, we can meet a quarter of that. It’s a huge gap,” Bernth said.

She explained that the economic challenges of COVID have strained nonprofit resources. The need for energy assistance has gone up, but grant funding Agape relies on to meet that need has been redirected to answer other crises such as ongoing homelessness.

“COVID has done a number on all of our funding. It’s not that we have less funding overall, but we have different funding,” Bernth explained. “The funding has shifted ... but at the same time the old need has increased. Now the (energy) funding and the need have this big gap, and we’re concerned about being able to fill that gap,” Bernth said.

The agency says community members can help with the problem in two ways. Firstly, supporters can contact Agape directly online at agapemo.org, or by calling 636-456-4645, to learn how to make a direct donation.

Second, they can volunteer to be bell ringers for a Salvation Army kettle collection at several local stores. All the money collected in Warren County goes directly back to Agape for poverty support services, Bernth said. However, Agape doesn’t receive that disbursement until January, so the agency is also looking for more immediate assistance.

NECAC gets infusion from state

Meanwhile, North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC) says it recently received a large amount of state government funding to double the energy assistance benefits it can offer to clients.

NECAC is the regional facilitator for two energy assistance programs provided by the Missouri Department of Social Services, which announced the large increase in funding in November.

“This is great news for our clients,” said NECAC energy assistance supervisor Angela Kattenbraker. “This will make a big difference for families and individuals who are struggling with rising utility costs.”

NECAC clients need to meet certain low-income requirements and go through an application process in order to receive assistance.

Spokesperson Brent Engel said the agency is worried that some people who need energy assistance hadn’t been coming for help because they were afraid of COVID exposure during the application process. He commented that the number of applications for energy assistance went down last year, even though the demand for funding went up. This year, the number of applications has been returning to normal, Engel said.

More information about assistance is available by calling the NECAC Warren County Service Center, 636-456-8191, located at 120 E. Main St. in Warrenton.

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