Area emergency food and shelter programs will be receiving some extra funds in the near future.
Clay County was recently awarded $21,773 in federal funds under the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program (EFSP).
"This is the largest amount we have received since we have been a part of the program," Sandi Goebel, local chairperson for the board, said. "In recent years, we have generally received between $12,000 and $17,000."
Goelbel added the increase is due to the increase of unemployment in Clay County recorded from October 2007 to September 2008.
"I guess it is a sign of the times," she said. "But the need is definitely there in Clay County."
Locally, five food pantries are slated to receive a portion of the funds. These include Clay County Benevolent Association, Clay County Emergency Food Pantry, Southern Clay County Food Pantry, the Clay County Emergency Cupboard and Closet (Senior Center) and the Wesley Chapel Food Pantry.
However, Goebel said other agencies may apply for funding, but the applications must be turned in within five days of the printing of this article.
While the majority of the funds are going to food pantries, one local agency also helps in other ways.
"Part of the funds received by the Benevolent Association will help assist in paying utility bills and rent," Goebel said.
According to the EFSP website, the selections are made by a national board chaired by the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and consists of representatives from the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, USA, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A, The Salvation Army, United Jewish Communities and the United Way of America.
Local boards are in charge of distributing the funds, which are appropriated by Congress in an effort to help expand the capacity of food and shelter programs in high-need areas around the country.
"The amount each organization will get is based on how much business they do," Goebel said.
Under the terms of the grant, local agencies chosen to receive funds must:
* Be private voluntary non-profits or units of government,
* Have an accounting system,
* Practice nondiscrimination,
* Have demonstrated the capability to deliver emergency food and/or shelter programs, and
* If they are a private voluntary organization, they must have a voluntary board.
"The county has received these funds for a number of years and it is wonderful to be able to help those in need," Goebel said. "However, these funds are not sent straight to individuals. Those in need must contact one of the organizations receiving the funds in order to get assistance."
The EFSP has been in effect since 1983. Also in accordance with legislation, local boards place special emphasis on identification and assistance to the elderly, families with children and veterans.
Public or private voluntary agencies interested in applying for EFSP funds should contact Sandi Goebel at 443-0025 or 812-236-2794 as soon as possible.