Helping low income families and those facing poverty with overcoming their challenges is offered by the Bucks County Opportunity Council. The non-profit agency offers direct assistance along with referrals to other local non-profits and government benefits.
Staff from the agency partner with clients to address the cause of their struggles. So some short term aid for expenses such as heating bills or rent may be offered along with services such as job training and education. When facing a hardship, BCOC may be able to assist.
Food assistance is offered from Bucks County Opportunity Council. The main resources available is FaNN - Food and Nutrition Network. This is the region’s leading source for help for low-income residents with meeting their nutritional needs.
FaNN is a network of almost 40 not for profit private and public pantries who are committed to meeting the food, health and nutrition needs of low-income county households. Operating according to principles that ensure quality service provision and accountability, the network and its pantries runs local food drives and obtains donations from area restaurants, grocery stores, farms, and other sources.
The federal funded Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) serves all low-income Bucks County residents in need of groceries or food. Mass distribution of government-supplied commodities (such as breads, meats, canned goods) is available on a rotating basis on designated days at over 20 sites throughout the county. Many beneficiaries are seniors, children, and the unemployed. Local pantries also supply food on a daily basis to eligible residents as needed and in emergency situations.
The Bucks County Opportunity Council offers further assistance to low-income families through the Economic Self-Sufficiency Program. Based on an approach that addresses the root causes of being in a low income status and the factors working against escaping the cycle of poverty that often repeats from one generation to the next, the ES program from BCOC transforms lives.
Participants of any case management are educated about ways to improve their situations and ultimately escape poverty permanently. So they will no longer just need to cope with and accept it.
The process begins with a personal assessment from a case manager from Bucks County Opportunity Council. This will then be followed up with an individualized, strengths based goal plan. Further support from the non-profit includes coaching, counseling and mentoring. All of this is intended to help achieve the fundamental change needed to leave poverty forever.
The emphasis of Economic Self-Sufficiency is on providing each client with the education and job training to secure employment within the state of Pennsylvania local economy. Ideally the client will obtain a job that provides a wage sufficient to sustain a family and pay the bills over the long term.
Included in each plan is information on access to financial support, such as affordable healthcare, transportation, childcare vouchers, financial literacy (banking, credit repair), and establishing positive and supportive relationships. This is offered by BCOC.
The community action agency works with charities, non-profits and private funders. Participants leave the program armed with knowledge, skills, and resources that are vital in achieving and maintaining employment along with economic self-sufficiency. Bucks County Opportunity Council wants to help people eliminate any future need for cash welfare subsidies.
Other benefits include Employment Sufficient to Sustain a Family, Advice on a Balanced Household Budget, Access to Safe, Reliable Transportation, Freedom from Welfare Subsidies, and help in getting off government benefits such as food stamps.
The agencies Emergency Prevention and Stabilization program also focuses on helping Bucks County residents gain freedom from public assistance and achieve self-sufficiency. This program assists clients in overcoming barriers to self-sufficiency. There may be funds or loans to prevent evictions, pay rent or utility bills, or address lack of job training. The goal is to eliminate any future need for help.
The Bucks County Opportunity Council and the outreach program’s experienced Self-Sufficiency Coaches work with clients to assess and stabilize emergency situations, as well as to develop a plan for preventing future crisis. Clients receiving financial assistance or a loan are required to submit relevant documentation proving need and proving a hardship. They also need to contribute co-payment whenever possible. Among other things, this will ensure a shared sense of responsibility.
The Outreach Program provides emergency assistance and service planning to individuals and families who are facing financial hardships. Through partnerships with the UGI and PPL utility companies, among other things the Outreach Program helps customers pay their energy bills. It will help them reduce their utility debt and arrange for more manageable payment options going forward on their accounts.
Outreach from Bucks community action also provides some rental assistance to qualifying low-income individuals and families. Referrals to food pantries, community clinics and other support services throughout Bristol County are also available to those who are eligible.
The Bucks County Opportunity Council’s Weatherization service provides assistance with soaring energy costs to limited-income residents. The program is free of charge to those who are eligible, with funding coming from any one of a variety of sources, such as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Bucks County Opportunity Council.
Utility bill savings services for qualified clients include an inspection by an energy auditor, who then recommends energy-saving measures (caulking windows, furnace repairs, weather-stripping doors, insulating the attic, tuning the heater). The result is lower monthly electric and heating bills and a home that is both warmer in the winter and cool in the summer.
For those who are in need of tax assistance but cannot afford it, the Opportunity Council offers Buck$Back. This is available as a community-based Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that has provided thousands of free tax returns for eligible low-to-moderate-income residents, people with disabilities, seniors and non-English speakers.
In addition, the free VITA program has generated credits, refunds and savings of preparation fees. Hundreds of taxpayers from the region have improved their financial situation, thanks to the help provided by Buck$Back’s volunteers and staff from the agency.
The main offices of Bucks County Opportunity Council are as follows.
Doylestown Client Services, Neshaminy Manor Center, 1282 Almshouse Road, Doylestown, Pennsylvania 18901. Call the center at 215-345-3295
Bristol Client Services, 226 Mill Street, 1st Floor, Bristol, Pennsylvania 19007 dial 215-781-2661
Quakertown Client Services is at 347 New Street, Quakertown, PA 18951, call 215-536-0353 for intake.
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