With the recent announcement of massive layoffs at St. Jean and the recent cuts in SNAP benefits by Congress to those most in need, The Sun-Times is devoting space to providing our readers with services available to our friends and neighbors in Cleburne that may need that extra helping hand this holiday season. This week, we are featuring the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas, or as most of us recognize it – CAPCA.
According to their mission statement, CAPCA “is committed to enhancing lives, expanding self-reliance, and increasing community involvement with quality services to eligible participants.” Or to put it simply, CAPCA is there to help members of our community that are able demonstrate they are down on their luck and need a little help.
Local Community Services Coordinator Deborah Gilmer sat down with The Sun-Times to tell us a little about what CAPCA offers for our area residents. “Cleburne County offers the food pantry, we do a commodity distribution, we offer case management, we have the IDA (Individual Development Account), we’re getting ready to start our LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), weatherization assistance, and of course our holiday food boxes,” said Gilmer.
CAPCA has two programs a year for LIHEAP. “There’s a summer program that starts in July,” said Gilmer “and there’s a winter program that starts in January. There are two portions to it. There is regular assistance, which is a percentage of your bill based on household income and family size. The crisis portion of it has to have a disconnect notice. It can pay up to $500.” The requirements are based purely on household income, so it doesn’t take into account the living expenses that are already coming out of that income, but the income requirements do exceed the federal poverty limit, which many of those in need in our area are already at or fall far below.
With the recent cuts in SNAP benefits, CAPCA has seen an upswing in food needs for our community. “We have had a lot of people come in who say they receive SNAP and their benefits were cut in half and have no money to make up the difference for food,” said Gilmer. CAPCA has been working overboard to help as many as possible provide food for their families. Those food assistance cuts are felt particularly hard around the holidays and CAPCA helps make it a little brighter by providing a holiday food box to many of our less fortunate. This year, the November holiday food box program took in more than 2000 non-perishable food items, which met their goal of creating 150 Holiday Food boxes, with an additional 102 families helped beyond that. According to information provided by CAPCA, 252 families (over 420 individuals) were given a brighter Thanksgiving holiday because of the food they provided. In a testament to the giving spirit of our community, 19 volunteers devoted over 100 hours of their time to help with the holiday distribution.
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The Individual Development Account (IDA) is a matched savings account. “Participants deposit into the account each month,” said Gilmer. “Their portion is $667. When they have reached that goal, CAPCA will match it with $2000.” This savings can be applied towards self-improvement investments like continuing education, purchase of a home or upgrading an existing home, or assistance in starting a small business.
The Cleburne County Office for CAPCA is located at 305 W. Searcy in Heber Springs, right across from the Cleburne County Courthouse. If you need assistance, you can stop by their office or give them a call at 877-699-6924 to find out more about these services and others they offer for our residents. You can also learn more about CAPCA by visiting their website at www.capcainc.org.