Low-income families in Sampson County are expected to receive a boost in assistance through a grant that will help deliver a comprehensive program to get poverty-stricken families to self-sufficient status.
The Cumberland Community Action Program Inc. (CCAP) was awarded Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) designation last year to provide a self-sufficiency program and other related services in Sampson County. Since that time, CCAP has been establishing a foothold in the community and attempting to identify those with the greatest need.
As part of the next step, CCAP recently brought its 2013-14 CSBG application to deliver the ASPIRE Self-Sufficiency Program to Sampson residents. The program has achieved success in the agency’s namesake Cumberland and it is now the goal to see that progress extended to Sampson.
“For program year ending June 30, 2012, we were able to remove 26 low-income families from poverty in Cumberland County,” stated Stephanie Ashley, program director for CCAP. “Even though the economic climate differs from Cumberland County, we are optimistic that we can assist the low-wealth citizens of Sampson County reach similar results.”
That includes having someone solely dedicated to this county. While the state has not yet released funding, CCAP has begun screening job applicants and will start the interview process this month for the Sampson County Case Manager II position.
CCAP has provided the Sampson County Board of Commissioners with its CSBG application, which is required as a stipulation of applying for the grant.
“As the designated anti-poverty agency for Cumberland and Sampson Counties, we are pleased to include the county commissioners of both counties in the application process through providing a copy of the grant application,” Ashley said. “It is our intent to use these funds to assist income eligible residents of the Cumberland and Sampson communities to reach economic independence.”
CCAP, known locally for its food distribution and home weatherization efforts, received approval from the state last year to deliver CSBG anti-poverty services in Sampson. The CSBG funds are specifically designated to assist individuals and families enhance their skills and rise out of poverty through job readiness training, education attainment and life-skills coaching.
The projected CSBG budget for 2013-14 is $802,090 to bring ASPIRE Self-Sufficiency to Sampson while continuing it in Cumberland.
Through ASPIRE, case managers develop a service plan of action with the primary focus of employment. The project has a short-range goal to remove 24 low-income individuals in Cumberland and Sampson counties from poverty by June 30, 2014. The strategy is to provide comprehensive case management services to 170 low-wealth participants (150 in Cumberland, 20 in Sampson) to become more self-sufficient.
By June 30, 2014, CCAP officials hope to not only serve those 170 people and raise 24 low-income families above the poverty guideline, but to change the average annual income per participant family by $450.
Along with that, CCAP expects by June 2014 to assist 55 participants obtain employment; 15 participants obtain jobs with medical benefits; 55 participants complete education and training programs; 13 participants secure standard housing; 35 participants with emergency assistance; and help participants across the board obtain the average wage rate of $7.50.
Many in Sampson are already familiar with CCAP, whose nearly half century of service to Cumberland’s low-wealth community has produced long-term and strategic partnerships with public service and private human service agencies, as well as faith-based organizations.
The Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina, the Weatherization Assistance Program and Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Fayetteville (CCCS) have all had an impact in Sampson County. Food distribution has also been offered in Garland, Harrells, Roseboro and Clinton, the Eastern Carolina Regional Housing Authority, as well as several churches in the area.
The Food Bank serves as a clearinghouse for food products from manufacturers, brokers, grocery stores and similar resources. Currently, it operates in a 7-county area and serves approximately 250 non-profits and faith-based organizations in the southeastern portion of the state. Those resources overlap to the ASPIRE Food Pantry, an activity of the CSBG Self-Sufficiency Program, established to provide food to participants of the program who have temporary or emergency needs to prevent hunger or malnutrition.
That service has been provided to Cumberland, and will now be extended to Sampson.
In the 2013-14 CSBG funding application, CCAP officials cited the need in this county.
“The families and low-income individuals of Sampson County face numerous barriers that exacerbate their ability to become self-sufficient,” the application stated. “Many lack education, job skills or job training that would allow them to obtain employment providing a ‘living wage.’ Numerous factors prevent a low-income person from attaining economic independence. These obstacles reduce their ability to find employment, obtain health care or housing. It also lessens their capacity for overcoming crises.”
Unemployment rates, seasonal work offered by the local agriculture industry and general lack of public transportation for the second-largest county in the state were all cited, along with other factors — housing was among them.
“Affordable and safe housing is a barrier faced by low-income individuals in Sampson County,” it stated. “Affordable housing contributes to a community’s quality of life. However, low wages limit housing choices for many families.”
Cynthia Wilson, chief executive officer for CCAP, has spoken to the goal of CCAP and the ASPIRE Self-Sufficiency Program, and the tremendous results it can have.
Even with an abbreviated first fiscal year in Sampson, CCAP has expressed its aim to have enrolled 20 Sampson County residents as participants in the ASPIRE Self-Sufficiency program by the end of June.
“The goal is for folks who participate in the program to go through it over the course of two years,” Wilson said. “Through that two years, at the end they really are economically self-sufficient. By that, they have a job, they no longer need food stamps. They have climbed that economic ladder, hopefully to middle class, so they can pay their bills and not have to depend on any sort of public assistance.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.