Get help from Commission on Economic Opportunity for the Greater Capital Region.

Resources offered from the non-profit Commission on Economic Opportunity for the Greater Capital Region range from free food to referrals to other non-profits that provide emergency funds for rent or utility bills. The community action agency also coordinates educational and self-sufficiency services for qualified low income families in Rensselaer County.

Some of the main services from the organization are noted below. Families or individuals that are struggling, facing eviction, or that are unemployed may be able to qualify for help or referrals from the agency.

Emergency financial aid

Safe and affordable shelter is one of the most basic human needs. There are referrals to assistance programs from CEO. The non-profit can help low income and other residents find and apply to resources. These are for people who need help with paying the rent or meeting other housing issues.

Money troubles, job loss, a reduction in income or other unexpected life changes can cause housing situations to become unstable. The loss of full or part time employment, sickness, or any unexpected expenses can be hard to handle, especially in this challenging economic environment. This is even more true if someone is already having difficulty paying rent, their mortgage or is at risk of becoming homeless.

For this need the CEO community action agency offers linkage to other non-profits that offer the Housing Solutions program. CEO is willing to work with participants to prevent eviction or homelessness. There is also financial help for people to assist them with paying the bills to avoid a utility disconnection.

Staff can help clients find housing, rent and energy bill programs in Troy as well as Rensselaer County. There are other charities in the area that offer financial assistance to those who are either facing eviction or a utility shut off. In some cases, a loan may be used for these rental expenses or the security deposit. Case management and counseling are offered to evaluate the household’s stability and offer various forms of financial support as needed. This program also offers referrals to both local charities, CEO services and other programs that participants may need.





Staff from Commission on Economic Opportunity offer support and guidance to Rensselaer County families and can negotiate with the landlord and/or utility companies to prevent eviction or shut off of service. If needed, this program will also provide access to free legal services related to landlord/tenant disagreements. It will also help them access career development services to help participants to secure or maintain a steady employment.

Clients can also benefit from financial literacy education. This is noted below. But in general it will help participants to manage their finances, rebuild credit and improve their financial situation.

Financial education services from CEO will help clients with managing their budgets and improving their overall monetary situation. The various sessions will help individuals in learning to secure stable employment, manage their finances, improve credit scores and to become more independent.

The Commission on Economic Opportunity programs can assist clients and help them set and achieve their financial goals. Clients of the agency will work on long term self-sufficiency. The participant will also be able to partner with case managers and other local non-profits. Examples of social services offered are below.

  • The Financial Resource Center will help them with budgeting and income as well as financial planning. Staff will teach participants about budget planning, credit repair and other money-saving resources.
  • Improving credit scores, increasing access to banking, and debt reduction is offered.
  • Staff from the Commission on Economic Opportunity for the Greater Capital Region offer free on-site tax preparation of basic tax returns.
  • Other programs will help people meet goals of starting a business, saving for college, or buying a home in Rensselaer County.
  • Referrals are also offered from the CEO’s Financial Resource Center. Access career development training or get referrals to government benefits such as WIC, SNAP benefits, or the local Food Pantry.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is available in Rensselaer County New York. It provides free income tax assistance to working families or seniors who cannot prepare their own tax returns.




Commission on Economic Opportunity uses trained volunteers to complete participants tax returns accurately. It will ensure that credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit are applied for. The VITA program can used to complete both Federal Government and State of New York tax returns. Staff from the community action agency can also refer participants to banking resources and financial education counseling in the county. This program is partnered and a collaborative effort with the CASH Coalition and the United Way.

Referrals and information in offered from Community Connections. This will help working poor or low income families who may have an emergency but are not sure where to seek help. This resource services gateway to all of programs and services from the community action agency as well as those in Rensselaer County.

The Service Navigator offers one-on-one support to make sure participants are enrolled in the public or private assistance programs CEO offers that best fit their needs. The non-profit connects participants with other local resources, charities and programs to make sure that people are getting the help they need. Community Connections also offers short-term case management support to help individuals achieve long term self-sufficiency.

The state of New York EmPower service helps people save money on their utility and heating bills. One of the best ways to save money is by reducing heat and electricity usage. By making changes or updates to a home, it can help people live in a safer and more comfortable home.

Commission on Economic Opportunity for the Greater Capital Region Administers EmPower New York, a program that assists people in lowering their home energy usage through free appliance and fixture upgrades. As part of this service, CEO approved contractors inspect the home to find where energy is being wasted and recommend upgrades.

Possible improvements to the home may include such changes as Energy Star-rated refrigerators, free Compact Florescent light bulbs and light fixtures, and other updates.

Home repairs are updates are available as well for seniors and the disabled. The program known as Access to Home is can provide updates for safety and livability measures.

Weatherization assistance is similar to Empower New York. It is free to income qualified families, including the disabled. It offers them weather-sealing services to those who are eligible based on income and are residents of Rensselaer County.





Based on the results of a free energy audit of their home or apartments, clients receive extra insulation to walls, attics and crawl spaces, addition of weather-stripping to doors and windows, repairing or possibly even upgrading heating systems, extra caulking to openings, and repair of any holes in walls or windows. Possibly further testing, cleaning or tune up of a furnace may need to be done too. Upon successful completion of the weatherization process participants can expect to see a major decrease in their monthly utility bills in the order of hundreds of dollars per year.

Food assistance from Commission on Economic Opportunity

A local pantry offers free groceries and food for those in need, including low income families and the unemployed in Rensselaer County. Hundreds of people use the center. CEO’s Food Pantry offers other services and basic needs as well, such as clothing. This is of course in addition to the food and groceries.

In emergency situations, CEO’s Food Pantry can provide groceries and perishable items for up to a few days.  This may help people with short term relies until they can access longer term support, such as SNAP food stamps.

When participating in the free pantry program, staff from the community action agency assist in choosing the items of the participants choice in order to meet the needs of their household. Clients are encouraged to make healthy and responsible. Also note that Commission on Economic Opportunity Food Pantry is a part of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.

Another program for children and infants is is WIC. It is focused on postpartum women, infants, and small children from low income families. It is during this time that access to healthy food is needed the most.

WIC offers vouchers to buy formula, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and more.  WIC wants to ensure the health of pregnant and women, and their children up to 5 years of age.

This federal government program gives out vouchers which are to be used specifically for purchasing groceries, baby supplies, nutritious foods and formula from a preapproved list, and can be used at their local grocery.

Commission on Economic Opportunity for the Greater Capital Region education and employment resources

Education Opportunities Services involve the entire family of the client. Staff will support the parents as well as the personal growth and education of the participating children in their programs.

Their programs provide complete child development, nutrition and educational support for children between the ages of 6 weeks to 5. The non-profit will also provide opportunities for young adults youth. The goal is give everyone the opportunity to achieve educational and long career success.  Services are available at CEO sites located throughout the Rensselaer County region and capital area.

Head Start as well as Early Head Start prepare children for school by offering development services. It addresses educational needs and also incorporates learning and social/emotional skill development. Children from low income families that enroll into the program learn Kindergarten readiness skills that are needed to do well in school.

The first option, Early Head Start, provides services for children under the age of 4. Students are assessed on a regularly to ensure that they are meeting their learning goals. Early Head start also prepares infants and toddlers for success at an early age, this program teaches them skills they will use later on in their academic career.





Children under 6 can enroll into Head Start. This provides various support services for children with the focus on developing their language, emotional and physical skills they will use in school. Parents of children are encouraged to be involved every step of the way. They can also benefit from social services, referrals to government programs, job training and more.

Babies in Waiting offers resources, information on medical assistance and other support to eligible pregnant women. These services include family development, pregnancy and childbirth classes, and consultations with a registered nurse.

These resources from Commission on Economic Opportunity for the Greater Capital Region help to assure that both mom and baby are well taken care of throughout the pregnancy and after. Once a participant completes Babies in Waiting, they may be qualified for priority enrollment in CEO’s Early Head Start program noted above.

Note much of the assistance (especially the financial aid ) is from referrals only. Commission on Economic Opportunity for the Greater Capital Region does not provide funds, but they offer other support. For more information, stop by 2331 Fifth Avenue, Troy, New York, 12180 or dial  518.272.6012.

By Jon McNamara

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