Services and financial help from Suwannee River Economic Council.
Suwannee River Economic Council is a regional non-profit agency that provides help in a wide area. Assistance is offered for the counties of Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor, and Union. Various programs, some of which are financial in nature, are available. Or the agency can offer referrals to resources for emergency needs, such as food, medical care, or rental assistance.
The main objective of the organization is on helping the working poor and low income as well as senior citizens. To this end they offer government programs such as LIHEAP for paying electric bills and weatherization. Another goal of the Economic Council is on helping the large number of elderly in the area with food, access to medical care, and transportation. Case managers can also link clients to other resources in the counties of Suwannee, Bradford, and other region. For example, there are many churches, non-profits, and other groups focused on helping people facing poverty.
The organization works with local agency on aging offices in all of the counties. Together they offer an array of programs to help seniors, their families, spouses, and their caregivers. Resources are available for the elderly in Columbia, Gilchrist, Bradford, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, and Union, among other towns.
As part of what the aging offices do, they run the Older Americans Act Title III. These are all federally funded programs for seniors aged 60 and over, with the low income given priority for any type of financial aid. Suwannee River Economic Council provides Title III services at no charge, although they do appreciate all contributions, and this includes for food and home delivered meals. Depending on resources, seniors can access some or all of the following.
- Telephone Reassurance or Homemaker Service.
- Congregate or low cost Home-Delivered Meals.
- Lifeline Telephone Discounts.
- Transportation to a critical appointment.
- Referral to programs in counties such as Volusia and Outreach.
- Respite Care, including a Caregiver's Support Group.
- Applications for LIHEP or low income energy bill programs.
Community Care for the Elderly is a state of Florida funded, community-based service offering functionally impaired elderly residents an alternative to nursing home or institutional care. This is not free though, and fees due from the senior client or their family are based on a sliding scale, according to individual income. In a large number of cases, no fee is assessed by the program providers, whether that is Suwannee River Economic Council or the state.
There is additional aid, including some of which is financial, that may be offered for senior citizens. Mid Florida Community Services will try to provide grants as a form of Emergency Assistance. It can help with paying Utility Bills or Air Conditioning expenses for people facing a shut off. There may also be funds in Hamilton, Columbia, or Suwannee County to a caregiver, emergency alert service, and food programs.
The community action agency also administers the federally-funded Head Start program and the state-funded Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program. This is only available in some of the counties and towns, and te support is for hundreds of three and four-year old children from low-income or working poor families, with the goal of developing social competency and school readiness.
All students will have access to extensive educational services from volunteers and teachers. They tackle development issues, and all programs are supported with the highest-quality, comprehensive, and culturally sensitive health, nutrition, medical and dental services. Much of this is federally funded, so it operates from year to year based on grant levels.
As part of these child development resources, social services and maybe even public benefits are provided for the family as a whole, including the parent. They can learn about job training and much more. This is done by case managers working with community partners in the supported counties.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, is processed by the non-profit. Funds come from the Florida Department of Community Affairs Division of Housing and Community Development.
Government grants can helps income-eligible households who are struggling to manage the high costs of paying their annual utility bills. Those who are eligible will be given a credit on their behalf toward to an existing utility bill. Clients in the region, including of Lafayette, Union, Bradford, Dixie, can apply for any of the LIHEAP resources offered by Suwannee River Economic Council as noted below.
- Regular Utility Bill Assistance: is a credit available up to once per year.
- The Crisis program from the agency is for families with a shut off notice. Or maybe their power has already been turned off. The key component is the funds will be paid out in an accelerated manner.
Funded through the state of Florida as well as the US Department of Energy, the Weatherization Assistance Program from the agency works to reduce the financial burden of high monthly energy bills. It also help with air conditioning expenses during the summer. It is for low-income households facing poverty in all of the counties serviced.
The program works by providing energy-efficient improvements to their homes. Priority is given to the elderly or seniors that reside in Florida. Weatherization can also assist the physically disabled; lower income families with children under age 12; and households with a high energy burden, or repeatedly high utility bills.
Services offered are dependent on the result of an audit and upon the availability of funding. They may include adding insulation, Sealing Leaks in the home that let escape, installing CFL light bulbs, Repair or Replace Refrigerator or AC units, solar screens, and several other updates.
Often requested at the same time as energy help is assistance for rent or a mortgage payment. The community action agency can refer tenants to loan programs for these paying expenses, or there may be occasional government funding from progrms such as ESG.
Rides may be provided from Community Action Agency as part of the Transportation Disadvantaged, Para-Transit service. This is mostly for local medical appointments or a visit to the pharmacy, and it is for the elderly, physically or mentally challenged. They also need to meet income limits.
While there may be satellite offices, the main Suwannee River Economic Council office is in Live Oak, Florida 32060-0070. Dial (386) 362-4115.