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Federal funding coming for emergency food, shelter

May 10, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- News that a rare midyear federal allocation for emergency food and shelter assistance was headed to Washington County came as a bittersweet surprise for local agency representatives.

The $42,707 award will be available to qualifying agencies through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

"The high unemployment rate in Washington County has had a big impact on this extra funding," said Jenny Fleming, community impact director of the United Way of Washington County.

In March, the unemployment rate rose to 10.5 percent. That compares with 7.4 percent in December 2008 and 4.3 percent a year earlier, she said.

A local board made up of representatives from the United Way, Washington County government, local affiliates of national agencies, other nonprofit organizations and a formerly homeless person will determine how the funds awarded to the Washington County area will be distributed among emergency food and shelter programs run by local service organizations.

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Jodie Stock, executive director of REACH, said the local board has identified utilities; rent assistance, including security deposits; and food as priorities that will be used to consider how the additional money will be allocated.

"We're nearing the end of our fiscal years and cutoffs are coming," Stock said of many clients of her agency and others.

The issue of security deposits is also acute, since most rental properties require them and few clients have funds to cover them, Stock said.

In February, Fleming said the county received an annual contribution of $85,600, which was distributed to the Commission on Aging, Community Action Council, Interfaith Service Coalition in Hancock, The Salvation Army, CASA, St. John's Shelter, REACH, and Food and Friends, a Washington, D.C.-based group that brings food to the area for people with AIDS.

Public or private voluntary agencies interested in applying for the funds may contact the United Way, 33 W. Franklin St., Hagerstown, or call 301-739-8200.

The deadline for applications to be submitted is May 22.

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