Prairie Opportunity assistance programs.

The local community action agency, which is Prairie Opportunity, offers several assistance programs in the region. The organization, and its case workers, cover the counties of Choctaw, Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Webster, and Winston in Mississippi. While some of the aid is funded by the government, such as weatherization and the Emergency Food and Shelter program, other resources are overseen by the agency itself.

Offered both nationally and in Mississippi, the LIHEAP program helps with paying electric bills. Both one time and emergency utility bill assistance is offered as part of the LIHEAP - Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This particular resource is funded by the state, DCS/MDHS, and the federal government. It was designed to assist low income and poor families from counties such as Lowndes and Choctaw to meet their home energy needs.

The crisis component of LIHEAP is used to prevent a disconnection. This will provide accelerated utility bill assistance to those that qualify, with a focus on families with children or the elderly. The disabled in Mississippi are also key beneficiaries.

Weatherization is also offered at the same time as LIHEAP. This is also paid for by DCS/MDHS. Staff from Prairie community action certify a families eligibility and makes referrals for the free weatherization services. Some families, such as those on SSDI or TANF, may automatically qualify in certain cases. When successful, it can save homeowners hundreds of dollars per year on their utility and cooling bills.

The Mississippi Weatherization Program can provide free energy efficiency upgrades to a qualified low income families home, helping them reduce energy costs and the amount of their annual utility bills. Energy saving services are paid for by the state and the federal government.

Contractors are selected and approved by Prairie Opportunity, Inc. The work they do may include the installation of free measures such as attic insulation, caulking, water heater blanket, heating/cooling system repair, and other conservation measures. Home Weatherization Services are available to all income-qualified residents living in Lowndes, Noxubee, Webster and other counties.

The Power to Care is another statewide utility program. It provides financial assistance and cash grants with paying the electric bills of disabled and low-income elderly Entergy customers. It is run in partnership with other non-profits such as the Salvation Army in counties such as Webster or Clay. Staff from the community action agency will complete and submit applications for the program.




The CSBG - Community Services Block Grant is funded by the Mississippi Division of Community Services. Prairie Opportunity provides case management services to clients using these grants. This can include assistance in education, employment needs, health care, nutrition, transportation, free child care, housing, income management, emergency financial assistance, and self-sufficiency.

Federal aid from Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program will have shelter, food, rent help and utility bill assistance. This is offered in the form of a grant for struggling families in Clay, Winston, Lowndes and nearby counties. Some clients may receive a loan for these needs.

Help for seniors is offered by the community action network. Much of the funding comes from CSBG referenced above or local donations. The non-profit and its volunteers work to provide free congregate and home delivered meals, homemaker services and energy bill assistance to the elderly. Prairie Opportunity and local agency on aging offices are key partners.

Job training is available. The organization, working with partners, arranges for employability skills and work experience training to low income and disadvantaged residents. It will help them earn their high school diplomas, improve their education levels and prepare them for employment, school or either to work transition. It is paid for by the federal government and WIA.

Similar is the WIA disadvantaged worker program. However this will help unemployed or disadvantaged people that are low-income and/or out-of-school. Those who are able to be assisted, including students, need to attend basic skills workshops that are arranged by Prairie Opportunity to prepare them for the GED Examination. This and other classes will increase their employability skills.




The Summer Youth Employment Program was also funded by WIA. It can help students and teenagers under the age of 24 get a job.

The non-profit Prairie Opportunity community action agency has several offices in the multiple county service area. The main site is at 501 Highway 12 W, Starkville, Mississippi 39759. Call (662) 323-7932.


By Jon McNamara

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