Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What a Ride

Okay, so I have some friends out there who think my life is a real adventure. There are a lot of days that I really don't see what they do, but today; reflecting over the last few months--it is nothing short of one wild ride.

We start a new part of the LIHEAP program tomorrow. a new optional benefit is being added to the line-up. Normally, we help low income families by paying a lump sum towards their utility bills in the winter. Two years ago, a new law was passed by the Illinois Congress that we offer a Percentage of Income Payment Plan. It is a good deal for families who are trying to work their way to a better life--the downside is right now, the only clients it is available to are Ameren clients. I believe that will change over the next few years. The deal is, most middle class families spend between 3% and 6% of their income to pay their heating and electric bills. Low-income families can pay between 20% and 50%. The PIPP (pronounced Pip-not P-I-P-P) lets the customer pay 6% of their income a month towards their bill and we will pay an additional amount up to $150 a month. Of course, this is the "simplest form", there are a lot of rules, and hoops as normal, but I am still excited about the prospect. We have been running a "Pilot" program for two years, I have 110 clients over 9 counties that have been participating religiously.
Up until now, it has all been by hand, and not under the mandates of the state law. The law requires the PIPP go into effect by September 1, 2011. I have spent most of the summer working with a group of people from all over the state helping lay this thing out and make it run smoothly. As far as the program itself, I believe it is in the best position it could be to begin. We have a new computer system along with it and even though it is not perfect, I believe with time, it will be good. I have also been involved with the look and feel of a lot of this.

This past weekend, we were supposed to get those people we already have in the program into the system. My part was supposed to get done Saturday, that didn't happen due to unforeseen problems with the system. Monday, I worked until 9:15 (I would have stayed longer but Andrew lured me home with Baked Ravioli in the oven). Tuesday, I went in at 6:30 and because the system was down, left at 4. Tonight, I was down to 7 apps that were causing problems. At 7:00 one of the girls from Ameren called and said she had everything she needed from me. I closed my computer.

Now I am looking back over where I have been and what I have become. 11 years ago tomorrow was my first day of my first LIHEAP season. I started working for ERBA 15 days before the previous season was over and just saw an app or two done before we were out of money for that program. I was so very "green" to Community Action. I really didn't know what I was getting into, or how much it would mean to me personally to be "Helping People, Changing Lives". Today I read an article in MORE magazine. It was an article about being able to work for a non-profit. It was so funny because we held a meeting on Monday and I told the girls that I felt like we were the most fortunate of all because people are always talking about helping others, making a difference and seeing change. We get to do all of that AND bring home a paycheck.

Yep, it has been one of the busiest summers of my life, but one I will never forget.

Yep, my 110 families are safe and sound in the PIPP system tonight. And my feeling of accomplishment is almost overwhelming.

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