BEATRICE – As families face a tough economy, higher costs and Covid, it’s showing up through increased needs one southeast Nebraska agency tries to meet.
Blue Valley Community Action Agency CEO Shari Wurtz-Miller says the agency that provides services to people in nine core counties…aims at helping persons to become self-sufficient.

"In 2021, we served 6,411 individuals. Poverty is not going away. With Covid we actually probably saw an increase in the number of individuals needing assistance. That hasn't gone away, either. With rising gas prices, rising food prices, were seeing more individuals coming in needing assistance with rent, utilities, with food baskets. In Gage County alone, we served 934 individuals last year. Of those, 514 came in looking for emergency services....or 55 percent of them"

The agency provided an annual report to Gage County Supervisors Wednesday. In Gage County, there is a higher rate of homelessness than in other counties BVCA serves.  "We have a couple of counties that didn't have any homeless. Jefferson County was 29, Saline County had 12...York County, 10.....Thayer County, 6. Gage County was 124."

The agency partnered with Public Health Solutions health district on Covid testing and vaccinations last year. Wurtz-Miller said the agency also partnered with Russ’s Market in Beatrice to help with providing food vouchers.

"The volume of phone calls we're getting right now for emergency services, we're averaging about 50 calls a day and we have one staff person to fill those calls. That's been a challenge....and our funding for those services has been expended for a large part of that. So, we are going to face a challenge of having enough funds to assist people, but we will do everything we can. If we don't have enough funds, we'll try to help connect them with other resources."

Blue Valley benefited from a one-million dollar increase in primarily Covid relief or CARES funding…which is now running out. Wurtz-Miller says 88-cents of every dollar the agency receives goes to client services.

Among other services the agency is involved with is Head Start and early childhood education and home weatherization services for the elderly, disabled or families with children who qualify by income and family size.

"Currently, our weatherization program receives about $400,000 a year. We average weatherizing about 40 to 50 homes a year. We have received word that we are going to be receiving about $1.5 million in funding to expend over five years...but our goal is to expend in three years...on top of the regular funding that we get."

Wurtz-Miller says the agency is seeking interest from contractors to do work such as insulation, repair or replacement of doors and windows, and replacement or repair of air conditioning or heating units….all aimed at making homes more energy efficient.

Blue Valley Community Action has been upgrading its website in recent months to make the site more client friendly, for those needing services.