Community Action Agencies Help Struggling Families After Severe Storms Hit Ohio

When severe storms hit Ohio on June 29 it left hundreds of thousands of Ohioans without power, causing many low-income families to struggle to survive. Community Action Agencies throughout the state stepped in to offer assistance with anything from gas for generators to help paying for prescription medication, food and other necessities.

Northwestern Ohio Community Action Commission
The Northwestern Ohio Community Action Commission (NOCAC) provides services to a six county area (Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Paulding, Van Wert and Williams) that was severely affected by the recent storms. Paulding and Van Wert received the most damage with 90 percent of Paulding County losing power. NOCAC stepped up to the challenge of helping the low-income families in the area that were struggling from the power outages while coping with power outages in their own office.
After conducting a needs assessment, NOCAC determined the best use of their Summer Crisis HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) funds was to provide gas vouchers for those operating generators to provide electricity to their homes. While many residents had generators, the cost of gasoline to run them was between $35 to $50 or more per day and after several days without power, many families were finding they couldn’t afford it any more. NOCAC provided vouchers for one- to three-days-worth of gasoline to 19 households. They partnered with the local Emergency Management Agency, United Way and the Salvation Army to distribute information to families and to provide response to immediate needs.
For eight families that were medically fragile, they provided hotel rooms by using CSBG (Community Service Block Grant) funds and leveraging that with the Salvation Army. For one family, their five year old child had been hospitalized for pneumonia when the storms hit. After the child’s release the family was still without electricity. NOCAC utilized emergency assistance funds to provide a hotel stay for the family so that the child could recover comfortably until electricity was restored to their home.
Another family of five had two children with severe autism that were experiencing escalated problems due to the distress of living without electricity for five days. The family had a very limited income and did not have any family members with whom they could stay. Shelter at a hotel in the community where the children attend the School for Autism was provided until power was restored to their home.
With most of the power restored in the community, NOCAC is now hearing from storm victims that they are still struggling to survive after spending so much money to sustain themselves through the power outages from purchasing non-perishable foods, replacing spoiled foods, buying ice or gasoline for generators. Many now do not have the money for food, prescriptions or other bills. NOCAC is using CSBG funds and leveraged funding from the Salvation Army to provide prescription medication assistance to those in need and referring those needing food to the Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services and local food banks.
Hocking, Athens, Perry Community Action
Hocking, Athens, Perry Community Action (HAPCAP) was without power themselves after the storms, but managed to open for business and assist families with their Summer Cooling Program. They were also able to provide emergency meals through their Regional Food Center throughout the weekend and the following week.  A total of 1,253 meals were provided to those affected by the storms at no cost. Meals included breakfast, lunch and dinner. HAPCAP opened up to provide these meals on the Saturday immediately after the power outages and provided services through Friday. 
Washington Morgan Community Action
The Washington Morgan Community Action Agency used their experience gained from surviving multiple floods in the community to step in and assist the local emergency management center in Washington County. With 60 percent of the area without power, the emergency management center did not have enough help to man the phones during the crisis after the storm. Washington Morgan Community Action staff members helped answer phones, including the CFO. They took calls and guided those in need to services the agency could offer to help them. Several staff members also picked up ice from a station set up by FEMA and bagged it into smaller quantities, delivering ice and water throughout the county.
Community Action Committee of Pike County
The Community Action Committee of Pike County was ready to help out residents affected by the storm with their food pantry. Luckily, the agency had recently held a fundraiser and had leftovers of bread, peanut butter and bottled water to help sustain the additional numbers of people seeking assistance. CAC Pike County estimates that they served between 150 to 200 more people than they normally would due to the storm. They also utilized HEAP funds to provide gas to people using generators to power their homes. This was done by setting up an account with a gas company to provide the family with a 30-day gas supply or until their power came back on, although because of the length of time it took to establish the program many people had their power back before they were able to provide assistance. The community of Pike County really stepped up to help those in need and many people donated fans to the agency. Because of these donations, the agency was able to provide fans to people who would normally not be eligible for HEAP assistance.