PRVO holds hearing about 2018 budget

Published 7:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2017


Pearl River Valley Opportunity, Inc. held a public hearing Tuesday in the Pearl River County Boardroom to discuss next year’s funding.

Dr. Johnnie Ball, a caseworker in Picayune’s PRVO office, said the organization is designed to assist those who are elderly, disabled and families with small children unable to pay their bills.

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The organization is funded through a variety of federal funds that are disseminated through the state, Ball said.

Those funding sources include Community Service Block Grants and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, he said.

PRVO and other agencies across the state compete for those grants every year. With 23 agencies across the state, PRVO covers 11 counties.

LIHEAP provides assistance for heating and cooling needs, including electricity, propane, natural gas and even blankets for qualified applicants, Ball said.

Next year, PRVO has been allocated $399,657 in LIHEAP funds, PRVO caseworker Lillie Crawford said.

“That’s a little bit more than last year and it is greatly needed in this county,” she said.

CSBG funds can help with almost any other expense, Ball said. Through CSBG funds, PRVO can help individuals pay for medication, housing, education, food and even gas vouchers for recipients who need to commute to work, he said.

“The aim is to get a person up and running so they can begin to become self-sufficient,” Ball said.

PRVO won’t find out how much CSBG funds are allocated until January, Crawford said, but it is less than the funds received for LIHEAP.

PRVO can also help individuals enroll in a weatherization program that helps improve the energy efficiency of the home to reduce utility costs.

The program will send a representative who will find and fill and cracks or leaks where outside air is getting into the home. It can also help the resident install insulation, CFL bulbs and other mechanisms to keep the home more climate controlled, Ball said.

“People have testified that there’s been tremendous benefit to having those programs in their homes,” he said. “It really makes a difference. I’ve seen people who were almost dependent on our services become independent of our services and live a comfortable lifestyle, and be able to afford it.”

Pearl River County is the fourth largest county in the state, but only two other counties in the PRVO coverage area are larger, placing Pearl River county third on the priority list, Ball said.

A total budget of $3 million is distributed to the county offices based on population, past performance and needs, he said.

But the need in this county is growing, Crawford said.

In her past four years at PRVO, Crawford said she’s noticed the residents in the community need more support.

“Right now my appointments are out until September, it’s just that bad,” Crawford said. “When I first got here, my appointments wouldn’t be out until a month.”

But the services have also continued to expand. Last year, PRVO was able to hold two food distribution events at the Raine Street Community Center in Poplarville.

Crawford said she will hold another this month.

“Last year, I had a young man tell me that his family couldn’t have made it, they were out of food and didn’t know where they were going to get food for the next two weeks,” she said.

To schedule an appointment with a PRVO caseworker, call 601-403-2206 for the Poplarville office, or 601-749-7729 for the Picayune office.

About Julia Arenstam

Staff Writer

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