A hearing-impaired and mentally challenged woman went to Ohio Heartland Community Action Commission needing assistance with her electric and fuel oil. Her electric was due to be shut off the following day and she had no fuel oil left. While the client could receive assistance through the emergency Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), specific paperwork is needed to participate in the program. After reviewing her paperwork, it was clear that additional information was needed and she’d need to come back the following day. When the Ohio Heartland intake worker brought her back into her cubical to explain this she realized the client’s challenges and went the extra mile to help her.

The client does not drive and her elderly neighbor was driving her around, trying to find some help. The intake worker informed them that additional information was needed to be able to determine their eligibility for Ohio Heartland’s programs. She needed both the client and her husband’s paystubs and her husband’s unemployment payment history. She asked if they were available the next day to finish the application quickly to prevent the electric from being disconnected. The client and her husband both work for a temporary employment service and she said she didn’t know how to get her paystubs from the temp service. The intake worker called the temp agency and had the client give them permission to release information to her; she was able to get the stubs she needed.

When the client returned the next day, she provided a paper from unemployment, and the intake worker realized it is unemployment payments from West Virginia. She checked online to see if there was a website for their unemployment like there is in Ohio, but there was not. She then called a number from the paper the client had given her and asked them how the client could obtain their pay history. The representative on the phone told her it could only be obtained by the husband, as he was the one who received the payments, and after he does request it they will receive the information in the mail within 5-10 business days. The intake worker needed immediate information to finish the application and get them warm. They had no fuel oil for heat and at some point during the day they were also going to lose their electricity. The intake worker got back online and started calling other numbers she found for West Virginia unemployment. After about six different numbers, she came in contact with a gentleman who told her there was a supervisor in another department that may be able to help her. She called the number and spoke with a supervisor named Mary Jo. She explained the situation to her and Mary Jo was willing to fax the information needed as long as the husband could give her permission. The intake worker spoke with the wife and there was no way to get in contact with the husband while he was at work. The supervisor then agreed to speak with the wife to get permission to fax the information needed to qualify them for assistance.

The intake worker received the fax within about five minutes, entered all the information into the computer, and was able to determine them eligible for HEAP and Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP Plus), a program that allows qualified individuals to pay for their utilities based on a percentage of their income. The intake worker was able to stop their disconnection notice and contacted the fuel oil vendor to have a delivery set up. The client was so happy and relieved she started crying. The client said no one has ever gone out of their way to help her and she always feels like she gets pushed aside. She thanked the intake worker repeatedly and hugged her.

For more information about Community Action programs in your area, visit www.oacaa.org. Note, not all Community Action Agencies offer these programs.

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