Emergency assistance as well as long term support is available from the Tri-County Community Council agency. The regional non-profit can help low income families apply for grants for expenses such as utilities or rent. Or some of the long term support is available from services such as the Financial Literacy Program.
There are offices located across a wide area. Each year thousands of families from Holmes, Walton, Washington, Jackson, Okaloosa, and Santa Rosa Counties call on the non-profit for information. Whether it is a short term crisis or long term guidance, case managers try to help clients with their needs.
Temporary financial relief from an Emergency Services program is for residents who are confronted with critical expenses that were unplanned for or an unforeseen temporary loss of income. For those that qualify, and if funding is available, then cash payments are made to the vendor, such as a utility company or landlord, on behalf of the client.
Programming for this Tri-County Community Council service depends on funding cycles, so some types of financial assistance may not be available at a given time. Additionally, because there are a number of different components of this program, eligibility requirements may vary. Case managers recommend that any potential applicants call for a telephone screening to ensure that they are eligible for assistance and that funding is available.
Tri-County Community Council also operates several programs that assist eligible households who are having difficulties with paying utility bills or rent. This can even cover water expenses in most cases. The programs in Okaloosa and also Santa Rosa County include Care To Share (CTS), the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Emergency Services Utilities, and ESG for paying back rent. Note that CTS serves Florida Power and Light customers only.
A number of programs are available to provide qualifying individuals and families with first month’s rent or security deposit help. There may be loans or other forms of aid to help pay rent to avoid eviction or past-due mortgage payments. Tri-County performs face-to-face screenings and assessments of need for all applicants.
Case managers also routinely provide information about and referrals to programs offered by other non-profit agencies and charity organizations. These are offered for individuals who have been found by our Eligibility Specialist to need services that are not available through the agency.
The Tri-County Community Council provides first month’s rent payments for qualifying households. This is a resource that is available using ad valorem tax dollars and/or the result of Federal Emergency Management Agency funds. Benefits are in the form of payments made directly to the vendor, such as an apartment company or a landlord.
Also, applicants for any type of rent program are responsible for finding and securing their housing arrangements. However the main office will have a list of housing providers you can use to get started. Applicants may need to meet criteria in regard to age, residency, citizenship, and income to access ad valorem funding.
Circumstances that would qualify a household from Holmes County or another region for the program can include residing in a shelter or in transitional housing, with some income earned in the household. Other financial aid is for people that are a victim of domestic violence (verification required or referral from an ACT Shelter).
Housing is also for those that are a victim of a household disaster resulting in the dwelling becoming uninhabitable; or having a current rental home sold or foreclosed. Individual rent or security deposit programs may not be in effect at a given time, as funding cycles vary.
The LIHEAP - Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is an entitlement program that assists eligible applicants with paying for a portion of heating and cooling utility bills. To ensure that the greatest number of applicants receive the grant they need, two types of LIHEAP assistance are available.
Tri-County Community Council processes applications for LIHEAP Regular. This was created by the government to be a once-per-year benefit to cover a bill. Note the grants does not cover deposits or prevent disconnection as it can take 15 to 30 days to process an application.
For families facing a shut off of their power, the Tri-County Community Council LIHEAP Crisis service is a form of financial aid for back bills, deposit, reconnection, or the grant can be used to prevent disconnection. This benefit is available to each qualifying applicant from Okaloosa or Jackson County once during the winter and once during the summer (April 1 through September 30). An electric bill with a past-due amount or a final disconnect notice must be shown.
Anyone applying for LIHEAP crisis should note that applications normally take 48 hours to process. However, if a shut-off would cause a life-threatening situation for anyone in the household, such as a senior citizen, then processing can be completed in 18 hours by Tri-County Community Council.
Any assistance for a utility bill received must resolve the issue; in cases in which the amount owed is greater than the maximum benefit, LIHEAP verifies with the power company that the payment will prevent disconnection. In cases where it will not do so, the applicant is required to pay the difference before any benefit is promised to the power company.
Participants in the Financial Literacy Program gain an understanding of fundamental budgeting skills and techniques. Clients will learn how to apply them, with the goal of avoiding homelessness. They also discover the impact their attitudes and habits in regard to money have on their quality of life, and learn how changing those attitudes and habits will help them to develop effective cash management skills. This allows people from the community, including Santa Rosa and Walton, to take control of their finances and apply effective cash management skills to achieve housing stability.
Another option is courses offered through the Lee Education and Employment (LEE) Program. The goal is to help low-income working families rapidly achieve a substantial increase in income by providing them with access to a career path that gives them an opportunity for a higher income as well as upward mobility.
LEE is currently offering a free Medical Office Skills Course, which covers covers customer service, medical terminology, career development, basic billing and coding, basic and mid level computer skills, and medical office terms. The course also provides job placement services as well as resume assistance. Tri-County Community Council as well as LEE furnishes necessary books and supplies. There is also assistance with arranging childcare, transportation, and other course-related needs may also be available. Classes are taught at High Tech Center Central.
Early Head Start (EHS) is a full-day child development program serving children from birth to age three and their families, including pregnant women. The community action services for pregnant women are unique to this program in providing support and education as they prepare for motherhood. Other EHS features include:
-Nutrition – There is free baby formula, hot meals, and nutritious snacks provided through a program sponsored by the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Child and Nutrition Services. This ensures that each child’s nutritional needs are met, and helps establish healthy eating habits and positive attitudes toward food.
-Enroll into Child Development Activities. This will include enrichment, sensory stimulation, and preparation for future learning experiences.
-General Family Services in the Tri-County include needs assessments, training, and workshops, as well as support services for fathers and grandparents. Staff members conduct home visits and work with families as they move toward achieving their goals.
The Tri-County Community Action Council Prescription Assistance Program (PAP) card can save Florida residents up to 75 percent on medications. These pre-activated prescription cards are available for immediate use in all counties in the region. They are also accepted at more than 56,000 pharmacies across the country, including Kmart, Sav-On, Sweetbay, CVS, Target, Walgreens, Winn-Dixie, and many more.
There are a few offices of Tri-County Community Council. They are as follows.
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