Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry is preparing for federal budget cuts on the horizon

Published 11:57 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It’s only March, but 2017 has already brought some uncertainty. According to the president’s recently released “Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” there are some significant cuts planned to health and human services that could impact low income residents in Polk County next year. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum or whether or not you support cuts in these areas, the fact remains that there may be fewer federal and state resources in our community to help our neighbors in need.

Although these numbers could change as the budget is negotiated in Congress, we are preparing to accommodate an increase in demand for services. Let’s review the numbers presented in the report.

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The Department of Agriculture budget is facing proposed cuts up to 21 percent. This would impact the SNAP program (aka food stamps), steadily decreasing the amount of support provided over a 10-year period. As a result, we expect to see an increase in the number of families that utilize our client choice pantry once per month.

The Department of Health and Human Services budget is slated to be cut 17.9 percent. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which is designed to help low income families with energy costs, could be completely eliminated. We expect to see an increase in requests for financial help with energy costs such as power and water bills, heating oil, propane, and kerosene.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to be cut 13.2 percent, so we would anticipate an increase in requests for help with rent.

The good news is that there is some place to turn here in Polk County. Did you know that Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry operates a $1.2 million annual budget with no financial support from the state or federal government? That’s right! Volunteers, donors, churches, nonprofits, businesses and local police and fire departments all band together to make sure no one in our county goes hungry or without shelter. While there is still work to do I can assure you, the residents of Polk County stand elbow to elbow to help their own.

So why am I sharing this with you today? To let you know we are working hard to make our agency and our networks as efficient as possible. We believe we can improve our referral system and increase our capacity to serve more clients, more often, without increasing administrative overhead or staffing. If we do need to increase our client services budget in response to demand, we may be asking you, our loyal community, to dig a little deeper to support our mission going forward. Stay tuned!

To donate or to learn more about our programs and services, please visit or call 828-894-2988 to schedule a tour of our facility (134 White Drive in Columbus).