Winter crisis utility funding, energy assistance in abundant supply for surrounding Missouri counties

Thousands of dollars in crisis utility assistance left untapped

DIAMOND, Mo. – Brittany Lauber is raising three children and she admits it’s often hard to budget on her family’s fluctuating income, but Economic Security helps.

“My husband is a construction worker so when it rains, or snows, or work gets slow, money gets tight, so they’ve helped us quite a bit with our electric and getting our gas turned on during the winter season.”

Economic Security’s energy assistance programs also depend strongly on the weather and with a fairly mild winter, there’s nearly $600,000 left in the energy crisis intervention budget which helps households with shut off notices.

“We’ll have that drop in temperature of 30 degrees, a little snow, and it might stay 3 or 4 days and then again that 70 degree or 60 degree weather. I do think that those things are making it into having more funds available. We have quite a bit more in the crisis program than we would have at this time. Normally, we might actually run out of those funds by March 15. The crisis or intervention funds are actually available till June or until they run out,” said Debbie Markman, Resource Development Director with Economic Security Corporation.

The extra funds are helping out families like the Laubers who struggle to keep up with utilities in their older rental home.

“They did pay our gas in full to get it turned back on for us at one time, and we actually got a letter in the mail out of nowhere saying they had extra funds, so they went ahead and applied that to our electric bill, ‘I was like oh my gosh,’ that was a blessing,” expressed Lauber.

Even though it’s hard for many people to ask for help, Markman says it can’t hurt to apply for energy assistance or crisis utility intervention.

“They might fall through the cracks for some other programs, but for this program they might go, ‘Oh, I meet that,’ and this only goes off the past 30 days income, so this could be someone who was working and then maybe got laid off in the last 30-45 days and they haven’t been able to rejoin the employment market quite yet, or maybe they did but they’re not getting a check for two weeks or a month.”

“It’s helped us tremendously,” said Lauber.

Economic Security serves an average of 5,500-6,000 households with energy assistance across Jasper, Barton, Newton and McDonald counties and Markman says most of their clients are not continuously using the program.

“We only have a repeat rate of under 21% and if you look at that 21% you look at elderly, folks that have a disability, so that fixed income and children. Families with children. That’s kind of the way southwest Missouri operates. We find that only people that need it are coming in.”

March 31 is the last day to apply for winter energy assistance. That application normally takes about 30 days to process. The crisis utility assistance application is typically processed much faster.