Berks Community Action Programs.
Self-sufficiency is the focus of Berks Community Action Program, however some limited financial support may be available too. The non-profit can refer qualified residents to government benefits such as weatherization and other resources are offered directly by the community action group. Contact them for more information on housing, credit counseling, education, and other services.
The goal of the Weatherization and Energy Education Program is to help enrolled applicants save on their utility bills and increase home comfort levels. This has been available for single-family homes, condos, multi-family homes and mobile units in Berks County Pennsylvania for over 30 years.
For those that qualify, the Weatherization Program increases energy efficiency of the household, which results in lower heating and air conditioning bills. Another benefit is the improved health and safety conditions of the home as well. Some of the services of the BCAP program include extra air sealing, heating system cleaning or tune-ups, installing insulation and weather stripping, and also replacing or repairing doors or windows.
The staff coordinate numerous free seminars on energy education to enrolled participants. Examples are low-cost and no-cost measures clients can perform. The aim is saving money by reducing consumption of electricity, natural gas, heating oil and even water.
The program is funded by private donations and also grants from Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, US Department of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and also the state of PA Department of Community and Economic Development.
The BCAP Rental and Housing Assistance Program helps families who are homeless, people facing eviction or facing homelessness. Income eligible families who will be able to maintain the rental agreement on an on-going basis can apply for the financial assistance and the landlord mediation program. They will receive a grant that is paid directly to the landlord. Depending on funding levels and other criteria, the financial aid may be issued in the form of a loan. The payment can be used for paying for a security deposit, first month’s rent, or both.
Berks Community Action Program offers help to low-income clients in preparing federal and state income tax returns through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, or VITA. This assistance is available thanks to training and technical support from the IRS and agency’s staff as well. The BCAP community action agency greatly appreciates the help from volunteers and partners. Dozens of people from the region help keep it going every year. For this reason, Berks Community Action Program invites all interested individuals and organizations to join VITA and continue to help this valuable service grow.
Employment resources are part of the Work Ready Program. Case managers help individuals to prepare for the ultra competitive and high tech workforce via the federally government created Work Ready Program. It is available to TANF participants who are referred to the program by human services or the County Assistance Office (CAO).
Enrolled applicants receive case management which will assess their skills. Specialists will determine which clients require additional training and the skills that need to be improved. The purpose of the program is providing clients with life skills and basic job-readiness skills training. The clients volunteer in the community and at BCAP to practice these new skills and gain real life experience. They can also be referred to other Pennsylvania job placement services for both a new job or career skills.
Debt Reduction, Budgeting and Credit Counseling Services can help clients in need to prepare for car or home ownership. The well trained Budget Center counselors offer their services to low-income individuals and families and help them save money for those big goals. In addition, they provide assistance with services such as credit repair and debts repay as well. Education on budgeting is provided to local non-profit agencies and groups through the budgeting workshops.
Hundreds of Berks County families became homeowners thanks to the help of the credit counselors. The amount of time spent with each family or individual varies depending on the needs of the client or homebuyer. Requirements set forth by the mortgage lender or local bank are sometimes taken into account as well. Two sessions are provided to individuals seeking pre-purchase counseling:
- Budget Review Workshop – This is a formal household budget analysis. A revision is performed as well as additional costs revision associated with homeownership.
- Home Loan Settlement Preparation Session - Participants of these workshops receive explanation of all aspects of settlement, including all costs and fees involved as well as the steps taken on the day of settlement.
- Loans - Berks Community Action Program can help families consolidate their bills and address creditors, mostly from debt consolidation loans and their lower interest rates.
Berks Community Action Program provides assistance to struggling families with young children through the Family Center. Eligible clients for the program are working poor families with children ages pre-natal to 5 years in Berks County.
Teachers and Family Development Specialists help parents understand the development stages their children go through to better prepare them for school and life after that. Parents are offered education on various topics in order to promote family’s well-being such as parenting, child development and other issues.
The Family Center staff have many years of experience in providing information and services to its clients like information on well baby care and infant developmental stages. Promoting pre-school, days care and kindergarten readiness through The Ages and Stages Developmental and Social Emotional Screening tools is one of the key objectives of this program. Intensive case management is available to families.
In addition, social workers offer referrals to other community-based services is also available via County Assistance Office, including job training. In addition, GED Program participants can use the services of the Family Center.
Parenting classes have a purpose of improving parenting skills through the Evidence-Based Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) Curriculum. Classes are offered in the BCAP offices in Spanish and of course English.
Foreclosure counseling is part of the Pennsylvania Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program, or HEMAP. The agency offers a state funded program called HEMAP to help homeowners pay mortgage until they gain their financial stability back.
Eligible low-income families facing financial difficulties can apply. Qualified clients can receive a short term, low interest loan to pay their mortgage until they regain their financial footing. Counselors help clients with application and other paperwork.
Help for children from Berks Community Action Program is available. There is a comprehensive child development program called the Head Start. Low-income preschool children from the ages of 3 to 5 years are eligible for the program. In addition, children and their families must meet income guidelines established by the federal government, which may be based on poverty numbers.
The goal of the Head Start program is to help break the cycle of poverty by providing children with services that will enhance their social, emotional, and psychological skills. Meeting their health and nutritional needs is also included in the program’s services. Head Start provides services in the following areas such as disabilities, education, referrals to social services, and free health care.
Pre-K Counts is another resource. The goal of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is ensuring pre-school readiness for all children of all ages, which will result in becoming life-long learners and productive citizens.
Expanding the number of children who have the opportunity to experience high-quality standards of the Pre-K program is the main goal. These standards help close the skill gap between groups of students in the K-12 educational system. Early education services available through PA Pre-K Counts provides students with skills that will help them become successful in school, workforce and life. Free services are offered to eligible families and their children (3 to 4 years old) who meet the standard income thresholds.%
For more details, or to speak to a case manager, the Berks Community Action Program is located at 518 Washington Street, PO Box 22, Reading, PA 19601. Phone: 610.376.657