Services from the Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason, and Thurston Counties are wide ranging. The non-profit agency and its case managers coordinate both government programs and private funds, and the main resources focus on housing, food, and self-sufficiency. More information is below, and the community action council can also provide referrals and other support.
Food and hunger prevention resources are provided from different sources. The organization partners with many different churches, non-profits, and government agencies on this, and some of the main ones are below.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program is a federal government and state of Washington resource. The Community Action Council works with pantries, soup kitchens and agencies that issue vouchers to help low income and struggling families in the counties of Thurston and others. A major component of this is the CAC Food Distribution project.
This works by distributing United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Surplus Commodities from a warehouse in Shelton Washington to participating soup kitchens and food banks. There is aid available for centers located throughout Mason, Thurston, Lewis and Kitsap Counties. Some of what may be provided in the community will be staple foods like dry goods, tuna, peanut butter, milk, canned vegetables and other non-perishables, which can be used to supplement the diets of low-income residents.
For interested clients, the number of participating providers has grown to over ten food pantries and a number of local soup kitchens. Individuals may pick up groceries and other items at charities or churches, and they can also enjoy freshly prepared congregate meals at the soup kitchens.
Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason, and Thurston Counties provides applications to WIC, or Women, Infants, and Children. This is for very low-income pregnant women, single moms, and children under age five, who are nutritionally at risk. To be eligible, clients must meet established low income guidelines, be found medically or nutritionally at risk by a certifier, or document residency in the state of Washington.
In many counties, WIC also operates a Farmers’ Market Program that provides participants with coupons to be used for the purchase of fresh vegetables and fruits at participating markets. The program’s objectives are to help mothers and new children that are facing poverty, and also promote patronizing the markets and to support good nutrition for those in need.
Recipients of the state of Washington funded Medical Care Services may be eligible for CAC’s Housing and Essential Needs Program. This resource, commonly known as HEN, makes use of grant funds to provide non-cash assistance, limited to personal hygiene items, housing and free bus tokens for MCS clients who meet eligibility requirements. Call 360-438-1100.
Emergency rental assistance is available, with a focus on those facing eviction or homelessness. Using grants from the Affordable Housing Program, CAC partners with a number of local jurisdictions and communities, such as Community Youth Services, SafePlace, Housing Authority of Thurston County, BHR, CHOICE, Salvation Army, and the Family Support Center. This different groups all work together to offer money raised from the community as a form of rent assistance for low-income residents.
Other housing support is provided too. Depending on availability of funding, other partners in the efforts to rehabilitate and develop affordable low income apartments or housing include the State of Washington, the US Department of Agriculture, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), private developers, and many local jurisdictions.
The City of Lacey and the community action agency also created the Lacey Utility Assistance Fund. Since it has been created, additional money is raised from donations, generous utility customers, local businesses and other groups. CAC now acts as administrator for the fund, distributing both electric and even water bill assistance to working poor households experiencing difficulty in paying their utility bills.
For those that qualify, any funds for their bills are paid directly to the utility companies on behalf of the customer. To qualify for any type of assistance or a short term loan for these expenses, clients are required to receive water service from a participating utility, meet specific income guidelines and comply with restrictions set by the individual utility.
In some cases, working with local providers, utility bill discounts are available for disabled adults under age 62. A similar program exists for individuals who are customers of the Mason County PUD #3. Both programs have income qualifications that must be met in order to receive the discounts, and to learn more, dial 360-426-9726.
The federally funded LIHEAP, or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, provides cash grants as a form of financial assistance to help with home heating and utility bills. There may be federal funds for qualifying low-income residents of Mason, Lewis and Thurston Counties in Washington. Eligibility and benefit amounts are determined according to factors such as previous year’s energy usage, household income, size, and heating source.
To determine eligibility for any aid, Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason, and Thurston Counties asks a number of prequalifying questions, and requires various items to document client information. Dependent on availability of funding, the program runs from fall until all government issued grants are committed to eligible families.
Another resource is available too, as customers of utility companies make donations to the Fuel Funds program to help their local residents avoid service disconnections due to inability to pay their utility or heating bills. In order to qualify for financial assistance as part of this service, a household must be located within the area of the specific provider, and meet income guidelines, as well as energy service connection requirements.
Free weatherization services have the purpose of adding energy-efficient measures to the homes of low-income families. This is done in an effort to help them lower the costs of heating and cooling their homes. Each residence is unique, with its own issues and needs, so measures taken vary from location.
That being said, some of the available services include installing caulking or weather stripping, insulating ceiling, walls, and floor; adding free CFL bulbs, and other related repairs and alterations. Weatherization also addresses various health and safety issues, such as heating system problems or indoor air quality. All work is carried out by community action commission (CAC) approved crews and specialty contractors, who follow established technical specifications, applicable building codes, and cost-effectiveness tests.
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