ReboundKC: Local nonprofit operates software to fund rent and utility assistance programs

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Posted at 8:18 AM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 09:18:21-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The beginning of a new month means a new set of challenges for many families around Kansas City, Missouri.

Rent and utility bills are often due at this time. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, families are struggling to pay.

One local social services agency expects to see an increase in demand for rent and utility payment assistance next month.

“Unemployment numbers are going back up again because the COVID numbers are going way up,” explained John Rich, the executive director of Mid America Assistance Coalition. “Restaurants and all the service industries are closing again, so we’re going to see a lot of folks in critical, critical need come January and that’s when we really need to gear up.”

Rich also pointed out that federal funding through the CARES Act must be spent by the end of December, leading to a gap come 2021, unless Congress takes action.

The best way to get help is by calling 211. The United Way’s helpline is designed to connect people with agencies tailored to their needs.

Rich said power and water companies donate money to nonprofits that give the money to individuals struggling to pay their bills.

Mid America Assistance Coalition created and operates a software program, MAACLink, designed to allocate those donations to agencies who get the money into the hands of people who need it.

For example, Evergy’s Dollar-Aide program and KC Water use the software. Agencies on the receiving end of the software, like Project Warmth, distribute the money to vulnerable people.

“That’s our mission: to help folks who are most vulnerable in our community and that’s what we’re doing with these programs,” Rich said. “It is very rewarding work, I have to say, I feel really blessed to be able to be doing this work.”

Spire, the gas company, offers a similar program called Dollar Help.

This year, Mid America Assistance Coalition partnered with KC Digital Drive to offer internet bill payment assistance. Rich said an internet connection is as much a utility as electricity in today’s day and age. Telehealth, school, work and so much more rely on a home internet connection.

Aside from programs designed out of response to the pandemic, Mid America Assistance Coalition runs the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for Jackson, Platte and Clay counties. If families meet certain criteria, they are eligible to receive money to pay utility bills.

Mid America Assistance Coalition subsidizes the administrative cost of operating the LIHEAP program from its own budget. To donate to the coalition’s operating costs or directly to the assistance programs in which it’s involved, visit the coalition’s website.

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