PUBLISHED: 5:40 PM on Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Former city manager overseeing emergency aid program
Five Questions with Kevin Ritchie
The City and Borough of Juneau granted $2 million to United Way of Southeast Alaska toassist residents during the current energy crisis. The United Way turned to Catholic Community Services to assist with distributing those funds to residents in need.

Kevin Ritchie is the program coordinator for CCS and will oversee the distribution of those funds. He is a former VISTA volunteer and a former City and Borough of Juneau Manager. He is currently a community volunteer, an adjunct professor of public administration at the University of Alaska Southeast, and the coordinator for the Western Municipal Conference.

Why was Catholic Community Service designated with the responsibility of distributing the grant and what was the staff's initial reaction of handling such a critical role during the current energy crisis?

I believe Catholic Community Service was chosen because it has experience providing services to the low income people of Juneau, and CCS has the staff depth to get this program up and running quickly.

CCS has approximately 250 staff across Southeast Alaska and administers many programs serving low income families.

As a newcomer to CCS, I am impressed by the professionalism, positive "can do" attitude, and the true enthusiasm for helping people. The same is true of United Way of Southeast Alaska, the organization with overall responsibility to the City and Borough of Juneau

Were there any restrictions or requirements passed on by the Borough of Juneau regarding how the funds must be handled?

The City and Borough Manager and staff, CCS, and the United Way have been working hand in hand to meet the requirements of the Assembly emergency resolution that directed the funds to the "economically vulnerable residents and non-profits."

The result is a program that is accountable, while the priority is to serve those in greatest need at same time they start receiving the electric bill increases. We estimate that between 2500 and 3500 households will be served in the 30 days after May 16.

What are the requirements for residents to be eligible for assistance and how will CCS decide who will receive portions of the grant?

For households, CCS and United Way have chosen 200 percent of the federal poverty standard. This is expected to include very low income households to the "working poor." For example, a family of four could earn up to $53,000 per year and be eligible. A single person could earn up to $26,000 and be eligible. Every household that meets the income standard will be served equally.

How are approved funds handled in regards of paying for utilities?

The program will not make payments to individuals. Payments will be made to customer accounts at AEL&P. We will send AEL&P directions on whose accounts to credit after we process the applications.

Where can residents find applications to apply for assistance and is there a deadline of when applications must be submitted by?

We are distributing applications now, so people can get familiar with the requirements and make comments. We will be at the Mendenhall Mall all day Saturday to distribute applications and listen. However, we need people's AEL&P bills when the high rates start.

Therefore, we cannot accept applications until after May 16 when the bills with higher rates begin to be mailed. The bills are staggered so most people will receive the higher bills throughout the month after May 16.

The organizations we are talking to now as potential application "pick up and drop off" locations throughout the borough include: CCS and United Way offices, libraries, AEL&P, valley job service, Tlingit and Haida Energy Program, etc.

We are working with a large number of state, tribal, and local programs that serve lower income clients to mail applications to their clients and pre-qualify them.

The goal is to serve everyone who is eligible before their next payment after May 16 is due.

People with questions can call us at 463-6130. We have very limited staff now (2 people) to keep expenses low, so everyone must be patient. No applications can be processed prior to May 16 or later, when the higher electric bills go out.