Those that qualify for the program are eligible for either $310 or $350 toward their winter heating bills. Last year in Bartow County alone, Tallatoona served 3,103 residents through the energy assistance program and more than 21,000 across an eight-county service area.
Each year, applicants line up in Bartow at the Douglas Street location looking for help. At times, seen particularly last year, the weather has turned cold on registration morning as lines stretched far beyond the organization's doors.
To combat unpredictable weather and save applicants from the discomfort, Tallatoona has altered the application process. This year, all applications will be taken by appointment only made over the phone beginning for seniors on Nov. 1.
"Our focus is on our clients, because of the long lines, the weather last year, we tried to come up with a plan that would keep them from the elements and so we are installing a call center. All of the clients will call the number to make an appointment. They will still come to our office for us to process their applications, but all appointments will be made through the call center," said Barbara Childress-Chambers, Tallatoona service coordinator.
The Nov. 1 sign-up date is the first day of registration for seniors seeking energy assistance for winter heating bills. All members of the household applying must be 65 years of age or older.
"We realized how difficult it is, especially in November, we serve seniors that are 65 and older. And for them to be standing out in the elements, trying to get an appointment," Chambers said, "we just wanted to see if we could come up with a better idea and a better plan to help them, and all people really, but we start with the seniors in November so they would be the first ones to be exposed."
The sign-up date for the general public is Dec. 1. To be income eligible, families must fall 60 percent below the median poverty level.
With thousands applying each year for energy assistance, Tallatoona is nearing their busiest time of the year. Energy assistance is not, however, Tallatoona's only mission. Along with Head Start preschool, health and nutrition aid and weatherization services, Tallatoona currently is adding emphasis to employment counseling and job placement.
"We're trying to shift our focus to helping clients become more self-sufficient. So, we're working with staffing agencies and other partners in the community to help people get jobs. And help them get back in school to maybe get some educational opportunities that will help them get a job or get a better job," Chambers said. "It's a new focus for our agency to help people get jobs and become self-sufficient and that's really what community action is all about ... helping people to move off of any assistance from any social service agencies and be able to take care of their families."
Those interested in employment counseling can contact Tallatoona to set up an appointment. Job seekers will be aided in formulating a family development plan taking skill assessments, goals and needs into account for appropriate placement.
For more information on employment counseling, call the main office at 770-382-4222.
To register for energy assistance beginning either Nov. 1 or Dec. 1, call 770-383-3292. If within a 706 area code, call 770-773-7730 to avoid long distance charges.
At the time of appointment, applicants must bring: valid state issued photo identification, original Social Security cards for everyone in the household, statement for the last 30 days of income for everyone in the household that is 18 years and older, current proof of enrollment for anyone 18 or older not working and the most recent heating bill from the last 30 days prior to appointment.