To help those impacted by COVID-19, Callaway County is partnering with Central Missouri Community Action to help provide $500,000 in utility assistance.
Any household adversely affected by COVID-19 with an income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level can apply for assistance paying electric, water, sewer, gas, trash or internet arrears incurred between March 1 and June 30.
"We're asking that anybody that has utility issues due to COVID-19-related issues, please get in touch with Central Missouri Community Action," Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann said. "They may be of assistance to you if you have those utility bills."
Jungermann said CMCA was a natural partner because it already has an utility assistance program. This current initiative will be broader and serve more people.
The previously extant Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program only assists with electric costs and its cutoff for applicants 135 percent of the federal poverty level. A four-person household would have a monthly income of $2,948 at 135 percent of the federal poverty level and $4,367 at 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
"It's only what we believe are the necessary services that they need to have in their house, and internet was something we firmly believe they need to have, especially if they have young children and even to work if they get sent home and have to work from home," Jungermann said.
To receive assistance, applicants will be asked to sign a statement saying they have been financially impacted by COVID-19, CMCA chief program officer Angela Hirsch said.
"I think it's a great opportunity for us to get money where it really needs to go," Fulton City Council member John Braun said. "Right now, we have 421 passed-due with the City of Fulton totaling $189,000 — it's about 7.5 percent of our total revenue is linked at this point."
In order to allow residents to take advantage of the funds, Fulton is delaying shut-offs, which were set to begin next week, an additional two weeks.
The move is one way the Callaway County Commission is distributing the $5.2 million it received from the federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
"It's a good feeling to know that we can take some federal dollars that were handed to us for COVID-19-related issues and potentially pass them down and hopefully impact as many small businesses and lives as possible with this money to get through this COVID-19 pandemic," Jungermann said.
In addition to an effort to install thermal scanning devices in schools, the county has already covered some direct costs to help businesses reopen and is currently looking at spending $1.5 million on mitigation improvements such as touch-less and automatic sinks, paper towel dispensers, toilets and soap dispensers.
"I would certainly like to say thank you to Callaway County Commissioners, Mr. Jungermann, Mr. Fischer and Mr. Kleindienst for their efforts and vision on looking out for the constituents of the county during this COVID epidemic," said Tom Howard, Callaway Electric Cooperative CEO and general manager. "I think they've done an outstanding job of looking into the future."
Applications for the utility assistance are available through the Callaway Conty Family Resource Center at 610 Collier Lane in Fulton. Applicants must complete a LIHEAP application, affirm they have been adversely affected by COVID-19 and provide social security numbers, proof of household members, proof of household income for the past 30 days and a utility bill or notice.
Further questions can be directed to CMCA at 573-642-3316 or 573-443-1100.
"We really want to encourage families to apply and utilize the assistance — we will work with them," Hirsch said.