Post-Rita Storm Help is Available

Recently, the Unmet Needs Committee in Angelina County agreed to let the Greater East Texas Community Action Program take control of a $41,000 grant from the state. The group will distribute that money to storm victims who have not gotten all the help they need from federal agencies.

The committee is made up of less than a dozen people from different local agencies that are familiar with food and shelter needs in the community. County leaders formed the Unmet Needs Committee once they got the money from the state. Members of the committee are also on the county's Emergency Food and Shelter Committee.

The Community Action group started getting referrals before last week's board meeting even ended.

The organization is a non-profit agency that assists low-income families, the elderly, and disabled people with utility bills, home repair, and any other needs they may have. Community Action will decide who gets help through referrals from other organizations.

The county puts the number of Angelina County residents with unmet post-Rita needs at 9,000, but that number may not be entirely accurate.

Executive Director Karen Swenson said, "That is a figure that has been given, however, what we're finding is that a lot of these people are the same folks. Because of the wonderful partnerships we have here in Angelina County, we're able to come to the table and say 'who has actually been to all of us'. Some of those needs have been met since that time. Some of them of course, are still outstanding."

The $41,000 the county received is a grant from the state's Disaster Relief Fund. The money will be used to replace medicine and vehicles lost during Hurricane Rita.

"Of course, the funding doesn't go directly to the individual. It will go to, perhaps a contractor who may be doing home repairs for them or perhaps, someone who is doing car repairs for them."

The Greater East Texas Community Action Program has already gotten 13 referrals and expects more. The group has not received the grant money yet, but work with their referrals will start immediately after the funds arrive.

Angelina County storm victims still need help with food, clothing, and home repair because of Hurricane Rita. Who gets help will be decided by 11 different agencies that will refer at least two clients each to the Community Action Program.