Numerous low income programs are run by Greater Erie Community Action Committee. They are the main local non-profit organization that is focused on helping the less fortunate, poor, and unemployed. Some of the main resources offered in Pennsylvania are below.
Homeless prevention includes the possibility for funds to pay rent, energy bills or a partial mortgage payment. All money is limited. However the staff really want clients to gain self-sufficiency, so to this end the Erie County GECAC will focus on job training and education type resources. The location will also have details on pantries and other nutrition and health care programs.
Financial support from the Homeless Assistance Program is in high demand. The non-profit Greater Erie Community Action Committee provides help to eligible applicants with paying their rent, security deposit, mortgage, and utilities via the Homeless Assistance Program. Payments, or in some cases a short term loan, are directed to applicants’ legitimate landlords, utility company or other vendors.
Homeless or near homeless people from the county are the main beneficiaries. Aid is also for those who are residing in a group or domestic violence shelter, hotel/motel, mental health, drug or alcohol facility, in a condemned building, on streets or in cars.
In this group of clients are included those living in a home or shelter, but due to domestic violence, those who have received verification that they are facing foster care placement of their children solely because of lack of adequate housing. Funds from the community action agency homeless prevention resource can also help those who received an eviction notice from a District Justice. Or grants may be issued to those from Erie County who are living in a housing with life and/or health threatening conditions.
Utility Bill Assistance provide case management and financial assistance to low-income clients who are delayed with bill payments (energy and heating) due to emergency situations. Programs under this category include, Dollar Energy Fund, PCAP and NFG Neighbor-for-Neighbor. The maximum grant paid out for the Dollar Energy Fund is $500 and for NFG $300.
In addition to that program, the Greater Erie Community Action Committee serves the residents of Erie County by helping them maintain electric service and eliminate their past-due balance through the Customer Assistance Program. The program known as CAP offers a reduced monthly utility bill that is based on a percentage of income and debt forgiveness.
Available and granted credits are applied directly to participants' electric service accounts. The goals of CAP are improving the customers’ ability to make a payment and reducing electric account debt. In addition, the program helps applicants to save money by reducing consumption of electricity but they must participate in WARM.
The Neighbor For Neighbor Heat Fund provides assistance for working poor and struggling individuals to help pay for energy-related expenses. The program provides help to eligible individuals to pay overdue heat bills, to purchase fuel, oil or to repair heating equipment. In order to qualify for a grant in Erie County Pennsylvania, applicants must be at least 55 years old; Have a certified medical crisis; and/or a member of their family must be either handicapped or have a disability.
Recipients of any financial support from Neighbor For Neighbor Heat need not be customers of National Fuel. However they do need to must reside within the Company’s service territory in Pennsylvania.
Free assistance and energy education to low income owners or renters is provided through the Weatherization with the goal of reducing energy usage. Contractors that are part of weatherization audit the dwelling in accordance to industry standards. It also tends to find the best solution for each individual and their household. The end result is making the structure more comfortable and energy efficient.
Similar to above is the GECAC WARM program. This is available in Erie County Pennsylvania and is a free weatherization and energy education program for GPU Energy’s residential customers. In order to qualify for the saving from this program, applicants must meet income guidelines, have electric heat or electric water heat, and average $55 per month or greater on their monthly electric bills. Some of the conservation services done include weather stripping, caulking, attic insulation, replacement of broken windows, and furnace repairs or tune ups.
Dollar Energy Fund is yet one more option. Staff from the Greater Erie Community Action Committee helps GPU residential customers navigate and apply to the Dollar Energy Fund. The program secures one lump sum grant per year to eligible applicants who are experiencing difficulties like loss of employment, reduction in work hours, illness, divorce, etc. The assistance with paying an electric bill is provided from the non-profit fund. Program funding is provided by First Energy shareholders, Penelec customers, and their company employees. A grant is applied directly to the bill.
Head Start applications are processed by the Greater Erie Community Action Committee (GECAC). The organization uses government resources to provide assistance to low-income families and their preschool children ages 3 to 5 via the Head Start program. It is a comprehensive child development tool whose main goal is promoting school readiness for the children.
As noted, the federal government created Head Start Program and it has a tradition of delivering high quality services by enhancing the emotional, social, physical, and cognitive development of children in Erie County.
The parents are in focus too. The program tends to include parents in their children’s learning and facilitate the entire enrolling process. It has been proven effective when parents can utilize the assistance and enhance their own literacy, educational and employment goals through the program. Eligible children who enroll in the Head Start can improve various aspects of their lives like education, early childhood development, health, nutrition, mental health, and access to community partnerships.
All interested adult clients who want to enhance their skills in math, reading and other abilities can use the services of the Adult Education Program. Learning English and preparing for the GED test are also included in the program. It provides clients opportunities to learn about careers and employment and the classes are designed to meet the student’s individual needs. Among many additional services, career exploration and labor market information are also available to help students set goals.
The Adult Basic Classes provide participants basic skills education in order to help them achieve their overall goals. Greater Erie Community Action Committee and its staff coordinate Post-Secondary Education, GED Preparation or Employment.
Another component is English as a Second Language, also called ESL. This program provides participants the ability to take classes where they practice speaking, reading and writing skills. The services of this program are available four days per week where students work in small groups.
Employment and job search assistance is part of the WRP / Work Ready Program. This is designed to prepare individuals in Erie County region for employment and assist them achieve self-sufficiency. Referrals to Work Ready must come directly from the County Assistance Office, and many enrollees currently get TANF.
The Work Ready Program provides services including supportive workshops, counseling and on-site assistance. All WRP participants are encouraged to attain goals underlined by the Employment Development and Retention Plan (EDRP), which is the final goal of the WRP. Each client of WRP is also provided with intensive case management where they are given all necessary assistance to achieve their goals with the help of case managers. Those who enroll can also choose to use core or non-core activities.
These core activities include educational training, volunteer skill building, high school/GED attendance, job readiness, subsidized and unsubsidized employment opportunities, and placement into paid work experience.
Case management is available from GECAC. The goal of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program is to help all the members of a family to achieve self-sufficiency through intensive case management support services. A progressive and measurable goal plan is designed to help participants achieve economic improvement. As the individual increases income and their Section 8 subsidy increases. What will happen is that the amount of the increase is put into an escrow account for the participant’s future use to living needs and bills.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance from staff and specialists from Greater Erie Community Action Committee is always in high demand. It provides assistance to low-income people as well as the elderly who cannot prepare their own tax returns. The help is offered through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
Eligible low-income seniors, age 55 and older, can use the services of the Senior Community Service Employment Program, also known as SCSEP. The major objective of the program is achieving skill development for older adults in Erie Pennsylvania. The program can help them get a job and be placed into unsubsidized employment.
The GECAC Money Works for You program represents a financial literacy training to eligible clients. In cooperation with United Way of Erie County, GECAC offers training in the economics of home repair and renovation. Some of the Financial Literacy Training that is part of this covers following topics: Banking Basics, Debt Reduction, Financial Planning, Budgeting, Credit Reports/Repair, and Educational Grants and Loans.
Case managers are focused on helping residents gain self-sufficiency and stability. Call the Greater Erie Community Action Committee, or GECAC, for more details. The location and phone number is 18 West Ninth Street, Erie, PA 16501, telephone (814) 459-4581.
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