Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced $500,000 in CARES Act funding will go to support Howard County residents in need of energy assistance through the Community Action Council of Howard County (CAC). The grant funding will assist nearly 1,500 families who have applied to the CAC for electric or oil energy assistance.
“This virus has devastated many households, who have lost income and are trying to make ends meet to keep the heat on, feed their families, and pay their rent,” said Ball. “This $500,000 will support nearly 1,500 families in Howard County that need the extra support right now. We are laser-focused on expending all of our CARES funding by our deadline at the end of this month and ensuring that our most vulnerable residents do not fall through the cracks this winter as we continue to combat COVID-19 in our community.”
Annually, approximately 4,500 Howard County residents apply to CAC for financial assistance with their energy bills. Each year, CAC provides approximately $2.5 to $3 million in financial assistance to residents who are deemed eligible to receive energy assistance. Eligibility is determined based on guidelines set by the State of Maryland Office of Home Energy Assistance. Approximately 30% of applicants who are deemed eligible to receive assistance return to CAC needing supplemental support. This grant is in addition to the $1.35 million granted to CAC earlier this year, including $1.1 million for rental assistance, $200,000 for the Howard County Food Bank, and a $50,000 Rise to the Challenge grant.
“As 2020 comes to an end, and we look back and ask ourselves about the takeaways and lessons learned, what comes to my mind is that in Howard County we have a government that cares, listens, and responds to the needs of its people,” said Bita Dayoff, President of CAC. “The hardship of paying bills is widespread in our community, from low-income households all the way to upper-middle-class families. Every day at CAC, we receive calls from families who are in tears, concerned about not being able to pay their bills, and worried that their electricity will be shut off just as the temperatures are getting cold. This relief fund will help families keep their lights on and stay warm over the winter months.”
Howard County families who find themselves challenged in meeting their utility bills are encouraged to go on the Community Action Council website at www.cac-hc.org and apply for assistance.
“We understand the economic hardship that many of our customers are facing because of COVID-19 and are working to ensure that everyone is able to maintain their electric and gas service as we enter the cold winter months,” said BGE’s Senior Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs Rodney Oddoye. “The additional CARES Act funding that the Community Action Council of Howard County has made available will go a long way to help. BGE is also urging any customer who is having trouble with their bill to call us immediately at 1-800-685-0123 so they can take advantage of expanded bill-payment assistance programs, flexible payment options and financial assistance for past-due balances.”