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OCAP, Red Cross maxed

Local funding designed to assist low-income residents with their utility bills is “maxed out,” according to the heads of both the Covington County Chapter of the American Red Cross and Organized Community Action Program (OCAP).

Each organization sponsors the programs – Project Share and Low Income Heating and Electric Assistance Program (LIHEAP), respectively – each winter and summer.

During this winter assistance cycle, the local Red Cross chapter has assisted 68 households and provided more than $7,400 in funding.

“For us, those 68 households equates to 121 people, and every penny of that $7,400 was contributed locally by people participating in Project Share,” said Merrill Davis, the chapter’s executive director.

“That’s local money helping local people and shows just how important it is to check the ‘Project Share’ box on your utility bill and rounding your payment to the next dollar.

“It adds up and can mean the difference between someone having to chose between paying their light bill and buying their medicine,” he said.

“But that $7,400 was all we had for this cycle. We’re maxed out.”

Liz Seay, OCAP director, said her organization is in a similar situation.

“This cycle we were able to book 500 appointments and will distribute more than $300,000,” Seay said.

“But our appointments are closed out. There are 700 people on our waiting list in the hopes we might get more money.”

Seay said crisis funding is available for those facing an immediate need, but only for an estimated 300 families.

“We do have a new program that is available to those who lost their job in 2009 because of downsizing in the economy,” she said. “It’s a limited amount that will help cover mortgage and rent costs for low-income citizens. You must meet the income qualifications and have proof of previous employment.”

Funding is available on a “first-come, first-serve” basis. For more information, call 334-428-2660.