Meeting basic needs is the focus of Bi-County Community Action. The non-profit agency and its staff focus on food, short term energy bill help, transitional housing, and similar services. Another focus is on helping people overcome their challenges and gain long term stability.
A combination of government grants from organizations such as Federal Emergency Management and private funds are used to pay for these programs. Note all resources are limited, and many applicants will need to be denied due to restrictions. Resources from Bi-CAP are also available in Beltrami and Cass Counties.
The organization relies heavily on FEMA, or Federal Emergency Management, funding to provide emergency groceries, rent help and shelter if needed for residents. Note the government aid is used primarily to assist with preventing evictions. Or there may be grants for paying a security deposit or first month’s rental payment. In some cases, funds can also be applied toward assistance with avoiding mortgage foreclosure or utility shutoff.
This federally funded program also provides financial support to area soup kitchens, pantries, shelters, and Cass County’s Family Safety Network. These are all key partners of Bi-County Community Action.
Another key service is the Department of Human Services Homeless Supportive Services, or DHSHSS initiative. This provides guidance and financial support for individuals and families who have been homeless in the past.
Program components from Bi-County Community Action include extensive case management, plus financial assistance in the form of loans or grants provided by DHS. The funding will not pay for payments for housing, such as rent. Bi-CAP partners with a group of various counties and organizations to administer this program in its service area, including Beltrami County.
The FHPAP - Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program is another option. It will provide intensive case management, counseling, and support services to help prevent evictions or even foreclosures. In addition, the community action agency will also assist homeless families with making the transition into stable, permanent housing.
Bi-CAP also operates transitional housing resources or shelters at dozens of separate sites throughout Beltrami and Cass Counties. These are for people who are working to break the cycle of homelessness or poverty. It is short term accommodation for those who are not quite ready to move into permanent housing.
Counselors make home visits in order to work closely with families to overcome barriers to self-sufficiency. Clients can learn to develop work and life skills, improve their education, and otherwise create a plan for obtaining permanent housing. Priority is placed on assisting families with children or the elderly.
Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) provides funding for a number of housing type programs that help low-income households stabilize their financial situations and at the same time avoid falling into homelessness.
The statewide Rental Assistance Program, or RAP, operates as a subsidy program serving low-income or working poor families in the Beltrami County area. Participating families are furnished a monthly subsidy of up to $300 for paying their rent or a security deposit.
The Long Term Homeless Vouchers program is another option from MHFA. This provides rental subsidy for people who have been homeless for long periods of time.
Homeowners can avail themselves of the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling organization. This was launched in response the foreclosure crisis in the US and the state. Trained counselors work with both the household and the mortgage holder to create a loss mitigation plan to prevent foreclosure. There is also the Bi-CAP’s Foreclosure Prevention Assistance, which provides low-income households with loans designated for mortgage foreclosure prevention.
The Utility Bill Assistance Program from Bi-County Community Action Programs offers a number of energy efficiency related services to help reduce costs. Some of these programs are listed below.
The ERRP - Energy Related Repair service targets homeowners experiencing emergency situations that are life-threatening or that could result in a complete lack of home heating. It was created in an effort to be used for repair or replacement of faulty equipment. Call 1-800-332-7161.
The Conservation Improvement Program works in conjunction with area power companies in Minnesota, including Lake Country Power, Crow Wing Power, and Beltrami Electric to reduce the amount of energy used. It will also save consumers money on their bills.
Based on a free onsite home energy evaluation, these Bi-County Community Action programs provide necessary home alterations to improve energy efficiency and will install conservation measures. Some of the improvements can include the installation of compact fluorescent bulbs and aerators; repair or even the replacement of a refrigerator, freezer, water heater, air conditioner, washing machine and/or microwave oven, or insulation of attics and walls.
Low income households applying for Energy Assistance are also often referred to the Weatherization Program, with priority given to single heads of households with children, as well as elderly and handicapped households with high-energy consumption. For those with a crisis in Cass or other counties, note that emergencies and referrals from outside non-profit agencies are addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Some of the weatherization measures taken may include sealing to eliminate air leaks; measures to improve health and safety; furnace efficiency improvements; insulation of attics and walls; replacement of doors and/or windows (mobile homes only).
Also, the limited weatherization funds are coordinated as much as possible with other government or charity programs to ensure that that the most comprehensive set of services are offered to low-income residents of Beltrami and Cass Counties.
Locations of Bi-County Community Action are as follows.
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