Utility bill aid coming in Blue Springs

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

Between a portion of the federal CARES Act funds allocated to the city from Jackson County and a portion of annual Community Development Block Grant funds remaining from an earlier program, the city of Blue Springs has directed more than $340,000 to Community Services League for rent, mortgage and utility payment assistance amid the pandemic.

The City Council on Monday approved $250,000 in CARES funds to help Blue Springs citizens. Earlier this month, the council approved $94,000 in CDBG funds – left over from the city’s small business loan program it offered in the summer.

Based on an average of $200, the CARES allocation would help 1,250 households. Ultimately, the amount of assistance will vary, but Doug Cowan, president/CEO of CSL, says he hopes the funds will assist hundreds of families in the city.

“We try to get people back to a fresh start – a bill of zero, he said. “It’s not inconceivable a family could get $1,000.

“It just depends. The goal is stabilizing families. That’s the goal all year, but it’s especially heightened during the holiday season and with colder weather.”

Since CSL is administering the funds, they can be used toward any basic utility, not just the city-provided utility of water/sewer. Most Blue Springs residents receive gas service from Spire and electric power service from Evergy. Cable, cell phone and internet bills are not eligible. For CARES fund assistance, bills must be from March 1 or later. Other bills, like cable, cell phone, and internet are not eligible for this program. This program can not provide assistance for commercial (business) operations.

While they serve the same purpose of assistance, Cowan said CARES funds are more flexible, as the CDBG funds can go toward households of low to moderate income. CARES funds, though, must be used by the end of 2020.

“We’ll use them in coordination with each other,” he said.

While it won’t nearly cover the demands CSL experiences for such help, it certainly puts a dent in those demands. 

“The need is ever-growing during this pandemic,” Melodie Chrisman, manager of the CSL Blue Springs site, told the council.

Blue Springs residents who wish to apply for the CARES program are encouraged to do so as soon as possible. Those who meet requirements may be connected with an existing utility assistance program prior to participation in this new program. For information about the CARES program, visit www.cslcares.org/bluespringscaresact. Applications will be accepted at the CSL office in Blue Springs, 200 SW 10th St. The office has extended hours and is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-noon, and 1-4p.m., and Fridays from 9 a.m.-noon. 

Applications may take three to four weeks before funds are disbursed.

Cowan said the Oak Grove Board of Aldermen also recently approved $25,000 in CARES funds for similar assistance. Those seeking assistance can call CSL’s office in Oak Grove at 816-690-8213. CSL’s office in Oak Grove, 1408 SE Austin St., is open Tuesdays and Thursdays.