AJFC office flooded with calls for energy aid

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Residents looking for help with their utility bills may have to wait weeks to be approved and even longer to receive money, said Lamar Braxton, AJFC Community Action Agency CEO.

AJFC, a non-profit organization serving seven counties in southwest Mississippi, is administrating part of the $6 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) funds recently allocated to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

With natural gas prices at an all-time high, Braxton said his office has been flooded with requests for assistance.

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And though the three-person AJFC staff is turning out about 30 applications a day, it will be weeks before they can sort through the waiting list of more than 3,000, Braxton said.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen invited Braxton to speak Tuesday after several residents complained they had signed up with AJFC but not been contacted.

Braxton explained the application and approval process for LIHEAP funds is time-consuming. &uot;I’m not making excuses,&uot; he told the aldermen Tuesday. &uot;I just need you to understand what all there is to do before someone gets assistance.&uot;

Residents may either come to or call the AJFC office to have their names added to the waiting list. Staff then calls down the list and sets up an appointment for the person to come in and fill out a detailed application.

Braxton said applicants are required to show proof of income, the number of people in their household (a birth certificate for children under age 6) and proof the utility is under their name.

Approved applications are then sent to the DHS once a week, which in turn sends the AJFC funds in 10 to 15 working days.

&uot;In other words, we don’t have that money over in the bank,&uot; Braxton said.

But in emergency situations where human life is at stake, the process can be sped along, he said.

Of the $775,989 in LIHEAP funds allocated to AJFC, $178,000 is available for residents of Adams County.