For more than 20 years, Christ Church Cathedral has quietly offered financial assistance to the people of Indianapolis, primarily in the form of helping folks pay their overdue utility bills. The goal has been to help families and individuals avoid homelessness while ensuring some basic needs are met (electricity for lights, air conditioning or fans; gas for heat or cooking; running water for drinking and bathing). The process has changed through the years, but most recently pre-Covid, a small, dedicated team of volunteers accepted applications for assistance in person at CCC very early every Tuesday morning. Of course, like so many things, the pandemic changed CCC’s utilities assistance program. Drastically.
CCC closed its doors in March 2020 to protect volunteers and staff. In August 2020, Deacon Fatima Yakubu-Madus helped develop an online application process so we could resume the program, and we increased the amount of assistance from $50 to $100 in light of the increased need in the community. A recent audit found that more than 60% of applicants faced imminent disconnection.
The 2021 budget approved in January allotted $40,000 to the utility assistance program. Unfortunately, the need in the community has not abated, and by June 30, more than 90% of that figure had been allocated already.
At its July meeting, the Vestry re-evaluated the program and the needs of the community and voted to increase the annual budget from $40,000 to $60,000 instead of eliminating assistance altogether. However, it was apparent that the demands were only escalating, and new guidelines were needed to stretch the additional funding as far as possible. In August, guidelines were changed so that only Marion County residents are eligible for assistance and only bills from AES or Citizens showing some level of disconnection would be considered. The standard assistance amount returned to $50 per applicant in hopes that we will be able to help as many families as possible, and as always, applicants are eligible for assistance only once per calendar year.
As we continue through the discernment process, we will examine how we can best help these families and how this program may evolve in the future.
Many thanks to CCC member Pat McConnell and CCC Staff Accountant Evelyn Johnson as they steadfastly continue to assist as many people as possible.