Agencies see increase in requests for assistance

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

In the age of the coronavirus, local groups have seen some increase in requests for assistance.

Tri-Cap, which serves Dubois, Pike and Warrick counties, has seen the increase in several of its programs.

“And normally, this is the slower time of year,” Tri-Cap Director Joyce Fleck said. “So we already know more is coming.”

More requests have been coming in for utility assistance, rent assistance and the services of the health navigators for those who lost their health insurance when they lost their job.

Fleck said the agency wants people to make requests as soon as they know they will need help. “Don’t wait too long and let bills pile up and up and up,” she said. “That’s our hope, that people will reach out sooner rather than later."

While Tri-Cap gets government funding for the utility assistance program, it does not get that for rent assistance or the health navigators.

“That is based on the donations that come in from the community,” Fleck said. “We saw immediately more people calling us for help. So we’ve been putting a plea out to the community that we need help with this. Because the normal avenues where we send people to get help, they’re out of funds, too.

“Currently, we have funds, but it comes and it goes.”

Food banks have also seen the need increase.

“There has been an increase,” said Rich Welp, who runs the Shared Abundance food bank program. “But it’s nothing like what you see on TV. In Dubois County, people are still working here. There are some in retail who are not working. But overall, people are still working.”

But there is always a need, Welp said. “We have had some great donors, who are generous. So we haven’t had too much trouble,” he said. “They see what’s going on, and they want to help. We hope that those do continue.”

Another contributing factor is the moratorium on disconnecting utilities, Patoka Township Trustee Don Astrike said. Orders that are in place don’t allow utility companies to disconnect utilities because of nonpayment.

“But that will eventually end,” Astrike said. “And I think that is when we will get slammed with people needing help.”

So far, Astrike has not seen much of an increase in the need for assistance. “I’ve not had much of my regular business, as far as helping individuals with utilities and shelter,” Astrike said. “But maybe a lot of them have their unemployment and government benefits right now.

“But we don’t know what’s going to happen when that moratorium time ends,” he said, “if a bunch of people will have a bunch of built-up utilities.”

Fleck expects that need to increase.

“Some clients understand that this is a delay in having to pay. It doesn’t mean the bill goes away,” Fleck said. “But you can only think about the biggest emergencies when you’re in a crisis situation. There are a lot of worries going on.”

Fleck encourages people to talk to Tri-Cap early on, before they get into more of a crisis situation. “Don’t wait till the moratorium is over,” she said. “Ask us sooner, so that we go through your information with you. Call us, or go on our website and download the applications now, start filling it out, mail it in. It gets you in the queue faster.”

Along with accepting public donations for various assistance programs, Tri-Cap is also accepting donations of new masks. The office is still closed to the public, but people can reach the agency at 812-482-2233 or www.tri-cap.net.




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