RICHARD A. STEVENSONI am so proud of my staff, which has once again stepped up and met the challenges of helping our community during a crisis. Many of us, including me, lost electricity for days after the storm that struck us on Friday, June 29. Even our office was without power after the storm.

I had made plans for our office to be open to help people on Monday regardless of whether the office had electricity. Before computers, we worked from paper case files, and I planned to use that method again. Thankfully, when I went to our office on Sunday to work on the emergency plan, I found that the power had been restored to downtown and to our office.

While we had power at the office, many of us still had no power in our homes. So, I had to turn my attention to how we were going to help our Wayne Township residents who were facing an extended time without electricity at home. This, of course, meant that many people would lose all the food in their refrigerators and freezers and would have no way to cook meals while the power was out.

Under normal circumstances, we must follow our Wayne Township Eligibility Standards in granting assistance to our residents. This means that assistance clients must meet our income guidelines of being below 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. In addition, clients must meet other criteria to be considered for Township Assistance.

However, Indiana law has a provision allowing us to provide emergency assistance for basic necessities to persons only if they need help to prevent immediate hardship. This would include persons who might not otherwise meet our Standards, but did not have the funds to replace food they lost while the power was out. For example, a person might have been paid and purchased food just before the power outage.

That individual might not get another paycheck for two weeks and did not have the resources to pay the bills and buy food to replace what was lost. We were able to help these persons with one-time emergency assistance by providing them a food voucher they could take to a local grocery store to buy food to feed their families. The amount each family received was based on family size and should have been enough to tide them over for a few weeks until they got their next paycheck.

Another issue we encountered was the high volume of persons coming to our office for help. The power outage occurred during the week of the July 4 holiday, which is a week when several of our employees take planned family vacations. This is something no one could have predicted. Yet, we needed to make sure all those needing help were seen and assisted.

We work hard throughout the year to cross-train staff and that cross-training really paid off during this time of crisis. Cross-training means we train staff to do jobs other than their own so they can help out where needed in emergency situations. Many of our employees were called on to do jobs other than their normal ones, and they really came through. They made sure everyone who needed help was seen.

One of the great aspects of Township Government is that the law which governs us allows us the flexibility to do what is needed for our own, individual Township. We are able to meet emergencies quickly. And, we can meet emergencies without putting our clients through additional stress by requiring them to go through a lengthy process to get help.

Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee