Financial help from Blue Water Community Action.

Blue Water Community Action provides services and assistance to the St. Clair County region. The non-profit will help people overcome challenges and exit poverty. Throughout the case management approach that is taken, qualified low income families may be directed to programs for basic needs. This can include free food, home repairs, rent or mortgage help, and energy assistance from LIHEAP. The main location is at 302 Michigan Street, Port Huron, Michigan 48060. Call (810) 982-8541.

Assistance with bills from Blue Water Community Action (BWCA)

Heating, utility and energy bill assistance is provided by the government and Blue Water Community Action in order to prevent loss of service in terms of electricity, heating supply and water. For eligibility, the concerned households should have been served a notice of disconnection from their provider. They also have to meet the income guidelines and they must have the ability to pay the bills to sustain the utility services in the future. The funds for any utility assistance are mainly contributed from annual events or grant programs such as THAW, the Walk for Warmth, LIHEAP, and from bodies like the MCAAA and the Michigan Department of Human Services.

Basic needs is for families who run short of funds. Personal Hygiene Packets are available on occasion when people need to pay for expenses for food, housing, transportation and medical bills. This BWCA program will provide several different types of free personal hygiene items for cleanliness and healthy maintenance for families, at most once every year. These applying families and residents of St. Clair County Michigan have to meet the federal income poverty guidelines to qualify for Personal Hygiene Packets. They may have toothpaste, razors, shampoo, soap, toilet paper, deodorants, dish soap and free diapers.

Federal Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) offers free groceries and food help to those who are needy. This is done through the distribution of USDA commodities to the poor and low income. These foods are made available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to those St. Clair County households who require their use in the preparing of meals. TEFAP items are also supplied to other service organizations and charities who prepare and provide to needy people. Generally, these items may be peanut butter, canned or dried fruits, bread, canned vegetables, canned meats, meats and pasta products.




Seniors and children can look into the BWCA Commodity Supplemental Food Program. This distributes on a monthly basis, helping people meet their basic nutritional needs. The qualifying people have to be children, elderly or senior citizens, and that means above the age of sixty. Free food boxes are distributed to participating facilities (such as churches and pantries) through the distribution center which is located at Port Huron Michigan.

MIEnrolls is a Medicaid Enrollment Program. It is run by the community action agency. It helps people who have been approved for federal government Medicaid benefits through Michigan State and they can receive information and education about their health care benefit options.

The Housing Information and Referral (HIR) Program addresses a number of issues. It provides housing information, including on shelters, rent assistance, and transitional housing. Clients can get information on resources such as security deposits or maybe no interest loans for paying rent and eviction prevention. The case management team work with the tenants to get them long-term housing when they come out of the transitional facilities phase.

Increase the energy efficiency of homes of low income residents by the Weatherization Program. This will work to lower energy costs. Clients homes are weatherized effectively with the kind of material which is allowed by federal standards and which is within the cost limitations as per state of Michigan regulations. Improved conservation measures from the government will help recipients keep comfortable during the summer months and warm in the winter. It can also help greatly reduce annual heating fuel bills.

The tasks can include, but are not limited to, extra attic and wall insulation, reduction of infiltration, testing of furnaces and water heaters, foundation insulation and other minor home repairs. Blue Water Community Action Agency trained technicians conduct an energy audit of the home and assign a local conservation contractor to perform the improvements.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program can also pay for Housing Rehab. The non-profit has been selected to strengthen the neighborhood by renovating those homes which are occupied by low to moderate income seniors and owners. This is done with the collaboration of St. Clair County Metropolitan Planning Commission as well as Blue Water Community Action Agency. Eligible low income home owners can get a one-time loan which is 0% interest deferred so that they can make needed repairs and improvements to their homes.





Counseling and financial literacy

Senior programs, including Payee Services, are available from BWCA. This will also include financial management type help and guidance. The assistance is offered to all those who meet income limits and are going through a financial hardship, including the elderly, people with disabilities, low-income families and households receiving SSDI payments, Social Security or Veteran benefits. Blue Water Community Action Financial Management and their Representative Payee Services offer professional help in areas such as Planning of Debt Repayments, Monthly Budgeting, Prompt Payment of Expenses and more.

Individual Development Accounts, a form of Asset Development, operates across Michigan. The main resource is the Michigan $AVE$ Individual Development Account Program. This is a state-wide program which helps people who are working poor or have limited income. They can get help with building their financial assets and save money. The savings are achieved by offering people the opportunity to buy homes, pay for school, start and run a small business or receive higher education. For eligibility into $AVE$, the participants have to be employed for at least one year.

Financial Planning from Blue Water Community Action is an educational program that helps you manage your money by developing a personal savings program, improving credit and creating a budget plan. The biggest benefit is that every dollar you save in your Michigan $AVE$ IDA account is tripled and you can save up to a thousand dollars in an IDA account for a down payment on the first home purchase. If you do this, you will also receive up to three thousand dollars in government funds as a match. Money saved can also be used for Small Business/Education expenses and it too is matched.

The VITA - Volunteer Income Tax Assistance from Blue Water Community Action helps families between January and April each year. Certified VITA volunteers work with clients to prepare free tax returns for federal and state of Michigan taxes for all eligible families and individuals.

Buyers can look into the Home Ownership Program. It addresses both home buying and retention. The agency is authorized by Michigan State to use federal government dollars to increase the home ownership opportunities for low to moderate income families. Services are provided to clients by means of assistance for down payments, credit repair counsel, financial literacy and home inspections.




Foreclosure prevention is discussed and is part of this too. This is done as buying a home is one of the most important financial investments that anyone can make. If you are one of the all too many homeowners that finds that you cannot make your monthly mortgage payment on time, Blue Water Community Action Housing Services will offer prevention and counseling services. The goal is to prevent a default of a loan.

Early Head Start is a federally funded child development program which is offered to pregnant women, young children and infants under the age of three. There are weekly visits under this home-based program to the selected houses. In addition to that, there are day-care or monthly socialization meets are organized both for the parents and the children.

The pre-schools that are part of Head Start offer children and students with an environment which is safe with nutritious meals and health care. The goal is to prepare them with skills so that they can succeed at school including kindergarten levels and beyond.

By Jon McNamara

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