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Montachusett Opportunity Council financial assistance programs.

Low income families struggling to feed themselves or that are facing a financial challenge can turn to Montachusett Opportunity Council for help. The community action agency is involved in the administration of various resources for the working poor and unemployed. Some of the main assistance programs available in the greater Worcester County area as well as city of Fitchburg are below.

Find help for food to prevent hunger

Residents struggling with putting enough food on the table can turn to MOC’s free Food Pantry for help. The center provides emergency short term food assistance to individuals, senior citizens and entire families facing hunger.

The three main components of it are as follows. The Summer Feeding service is for children and students. They can receive free breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. The aid is for children under age eighteen during the summer break from school. TEFAP, or the Emergency Food Assistance Program, can help in a crisis. Lastly, the Holiday Food Basket service will have turkeys, canned foods, and other seasonal donations for eligible families at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Formerly called Food Stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) works to provide adequate amounts of nutritious food to low-income elders and those who share living arrangements, such as an entire family. The program supplies eligible applicants with electronic benefits cards (EBT) and/or coupons. These can be used to pay for food at most grocery stores, as well as at Fitchburg’s Farmers Markets. MOC’s Elder Nutrition Program offers free assistance with the SNAP application process to senior citizens in Worcester.

Nutritious groceries and perishable goods donated by the Worcester County Food Bank are available on a monthly basis to eligible seniors through Montachusett Opportunity Council Elder Brown Bag Program. This is small in scope and is limited to 200 participants at any given time, with each individual remaining active from month-to-month until the assistance is no longer necessary.

The Meals on Wheels Home Delivery Program brings nutritious, hot meals to elders who are unable to leave their Worcester County homes. It will allow them to enjoy meals at their place of residence. Or they can access community dining sites. MOW can also help those that are unable to prepare their meals due to health issues or a lack of transportation.




Montachusett Opportunity Council volunteers will bring meals directly to the client’s home at mid-day, typically between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, Monday through Friday, with the exception of holidays. The delivery is not available for breakfast or supper. For evenings or weekends, the non-profit service can drop off frozen meals that can microwaved to ensure that clients have some type of nutrition for evenings and weekends.

It will meet all USDA requirements as well. Meals are assembled to provide one-third of the federal government set Daily Recommended Dietary Allowances for adults and is appropriate for those clients that are on no-added-salt diets. People with medical conditions that cause them health-related problems when they eat regular meals can receive special meals from Montachusett Opportunity Council, if they have a doctor’s order.

There are also classes as well as workshops held on eating healthy, food shopping on a budget (using coupons as well as technology) and other steps people can take to save money as well as eat healthy. Montachusett Opportunity Council works with local non-profits as well as the USDA on this service. Even find websites and apps for free coupons.

MOC housing and energy bill programs

Transitions at Devens is a collaborative effort by Our Father’s House of Fitchburg as well as MOC. It provides homeless families declared eligible by the Department of Housing and Community Development with shelter, case management, and supportive services.

In addition to an emergency shelter for women and children, the program operates several scattered-site units for families that include single fathers or both parents. Programming includes re-housing services, which provide financial assistance for deposits or first months rent. There is also shared Homeshare housing units for sharing monthly rent costs. This will also be combined with support and guidance as shelter residents look for suitable permanent housing in Worcester County.

Other MOC services are also provided, such as assistance with the development of housing search plans. Another service is used for creating workable budgets. The staff from the community action agency will also be providing referrals to appropriate housing services and credit counselors; coordinate ongoing case management; and help people apply for short and medium-term rental subsidies as funds become available.





The low to moderate income families who transition from the shelter into stable, permanent housing continue on with the case management process. This is done to ensure that their situations remain stable and that they stay in their new apartments. Supportive services include assistance in finding subsidized housing as well as financial education. Other workshops arranged by MOC will cover various subjects, such as job training, employment, education and parenting.

The MOC CARE initiative’s Supportive Housing Program offers case management services to homeless families with disabled members in Fitchburg. It will also arrange for permanent supportive housing in the community. Program case managers work closely with clients to develop budgets, help them apply for Section 8 rent subsidized housing, and prepare for taking the GED exam. The overall goal is to support the family as they move toward gaining stability and avoiding future homelessness.

As funding from various sources becomes available, MOC’s Emergency Supplemental Fuel Assistance Program can provide cash grants to families in need of supplemental home-heating fuel. In order to qualify for this, all federally funded Fuel Assistance Benefits must have been exhausted, such as LIHEAP.

This means that such benefits must have been applied for, received, and exhausted prior to your application for the Montachusett Opportunity Council grant. Criteria in regard to income and rent payments also must be met, and each funding source has its own unique requirements for eligibility.

Occasionally, limited funding is available to MOC for the purpose of offering Emergency Rental Assistance. This will prioritize families who have received 14-day eviction notices or who face court-ordered eviction due to rental arrearage. In some cases, a loan will be used for this, and it can pay for security deposits as well. Eligibility varies by funding source.

Depending on the amount of money available from the non-profit, Emergency Utility or Electric Bill Assistance is available. This is disbursed through MOC for families who have been sent shut-off notices resulting from arrearages on their account. In order to qualify for this cash assistance, applicants must have applied for, received, and exhausted all of the state and federally funded Fuel Assistance Benefits as noted above.

Montachusett Opportunity Council Heating Emergency Assistance Retrofit Task Weatherization Assistance Program, or HEARTWAP, is for ensuring energy is conserved. The agency will repair or replaces heating systems for income-eligible homeowners, with priority placed on emergency situations. This will mean families living in unsafe conditions because of faulty systems or people living in unheated, cold dwellings are served first.





As part of HEARTWAP, and non-essential heating system work is deferred until the end of the heating season. Or it can be done in season if the agency is certain that they have sufficient funding to cover it. In operation throughout the year, HEARTWAP performs heating system maintenance, as well as cleaning and tuning during the warmer months.

The purpose of the federally funded Weatherization Assistance (WAP) is to help make home energy costs more manageable. This of course is also for low-income homeowners and renters. It works by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes.

The first step of weatherization is for an energy inspector that has been trained by Montachusett Opportunity Council to visit the home to determine what is needed in order to reduce usage and save money on heating bills. At that time, a health and safety check of the home is also conducted to be certain that heating and other related cooling systems are working as they should be.

Once both of these steps are done, the highly trained Weatherization staff comes in to install free energy-saving measures that can include, but are not limited to, insulating the attic and walls, fixing furnaces, sealing cracks, wrapping the water heater and pipes, patching roofs, and more. On average, households in Massachusetts that are receiving WAP services save $350 per year in home-energy costs. Read more about free weatherization in Massachusetts.

Educational and tax assistance

MOC is a local administrator for the national, IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. This assists income-eligible individuals and family with income tax return preparation. This also incorporates processing and efiling, all at no cost.

Volunteers that conduct this live in Worcester County. They are also are IRS-certified and are also specifically trained to find tax credits to which many low to moderate-income families are entitled, but may be unaware of, such as Circuit Breaker Credits, the Earned Income, Child Care, or for Education.

Head Start offers comprehensive preschool educational programming for three to five-year-old children from income-eligible families in Worcester County. The main goal of Montachusett Opportunity Council Head Start is to engage children in activities that promote their social, educational, cognitive and physical development. Classes occur in both center-based and home-based settings.

The child's parents are strongly encouraged to participate as much as they can, and are provided with access to a variety of training opportunities and self-enrichment programs. So Head Start will even help the entire family with increasing self-confidence, leadership skills, and a sense of belonging. This makes it possible for parents to either look for work or retain the jobs they already have.







The program also works to help and support working parents by working in partnership with child care centers to create a full-day program, and by situating classrooms in various places throughout the Montachusett region to make transporting children to and from the centers as convenient as possible.

Applying for help from Community Action in Worcester County

That is just a sampling of what the Montachusett Opportunity Council is involved with. For more information, the address is 601 River St, Fitchburg, MA 01420. Telephone is (978) 345-7040..


By Jon McNamara

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