CMCA Deals with Cutbacks
COLUMBIA - The Central Missouri Community Action center temporarily stopped services for its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Recent federal government budget cuts left the center short staffed and it can only schedule appointments. The center stopped accepting walk-ins. People seeking energy assistance now have to wait until July 5th to get help.
Recipients needing assistance must have an income of no more than 125% of the federal poverty level. The federal government cut state funding for community service programs across the state. CMCA is now down to four day work weeks and offices across the state have consolidated.
Development and Communications Director Trina Almond says the government should focus on other areas of the federal budget and not this critical portion of discretionary spending. The program had to end her employment as part of the cuts. Her last day was June 30.
"My position was eliminated because it did not directly affect the people we were helping," Almond said. "Unemployment is not gonna pay the bills and I'm concerned, not sleeping well at night."
Energy coordinator Melody Rodriguez says she gets as many as 300 calls a day from people who have or are on the verge of disconnection notices.
"There's just nothing I can do," Rodriguez said. "I hear a lot of crying, people in desperate situations and all I can tell them is sorry."
Former MU Football player Jason Lewis recalled losing his job and used CMCA to help him get back to school.
"I'm now an insurance agent at Triple A and I wouldn't have been able to have this opportunity if not for CMCA," Lewis said. "I'm also participating in a new program where CMCA is giving me a loan to start my own business involving sports for youth and adults, so they've helped my family a lot."
CMCA is lobbying to stop the cutbacks because of the amount of people who need help from the program. It is asking people to go to friendsofCMCA.org and help get involved in making sure legislature knows how important their services are. You can also visit the Show Me Action site for a full list of services CMCA offers.