A special program to assist thousands of residents in both Hempstead and Nevada counties is now being administered by an agency in Benton.

A special program to assist thousands of residents in both Hempstead and Nevada counties is now being administered by an agency in Benton.
The Central Arkansas Development Council (CADC) announced this week that it is now serving the counties formerly served by now closed SWADC for the 2017 Summer LIHEAP Program. These counties include much of southwestern Arkansas with Hempstead, Howard, Lafayette, Little River, Miller, Nevada and Sevier.
In mid-July, the former agency serving these communities, the Southwest Arkansas Development Council (SWADC) based in Texarkana closed operations after becoming financially insolvent.
In a public statement on July 21, the Board of Directors of Southwest Arkansas Development Council, Inc. announced that the non-profit community action agency was closing its doors and laying off all of its 166 employees.
"The emotional decision to close the Agency was reached with great difficulty, following years of declining revenues and steadily increasing operating costs," Dick Tallman, former Chairman of SWADC, said in a statement.
"Despite tremendous effort and the dedication of its long serving staff to save the Agency, which included reductions in force, outsourcing of operations, and multiple cost-saving initiatives, we simply did not have enough revenue to continue to operate,” he said.
Tallman said that multiple contacts to Arkansas legislators did not result in financial assistance. Contacts to the Governor's office similarly yielded no financial assistance for the Agency.
“While each Legislator contacted is aware of the circumstances affecting the Agency, each indicated that no state funding is available within their respective budgets to alleviate the Agency's financial crisis,” Tallman said.
The former SWADC serviced 12 southern Arkansas counties, including Miller, Hempstead. Nevada, Lafayette, Little River, Howard, Sevier, Dallas, Calhoun, Union, Ouachita and Columbia for a span of 48 years providing aid to elderly and low income residents.
In Hempstead County, where most residents are served by Hope Water & Light, about 1,000 low income households have been documented in the past as receiving help in either cooling or heating bill related to keeping their homes livable.
Over two years time, dating to 2015, those residents served by Hope Water & Light have seen cumulative increases of 24-percent, even as gross incomes in the region as only increased one-half of a percent and Social Security only two-percent.
Several former SWADC local spokespersons in the past have publicly cited summer cooling bills between $200 and $600, while elderly and disabled populations have seen winter heating bills have been as high as $300.  
In 2016, while the SWADC was still administering the program, Beronica Parrish, who had oversight of both the Hempstead and Nevada Senior Centers, said “It is a much needed program that people look forward to for help every summer, and with these hot temperatures, we don't want low income people out there to have their electricity shut off trying to keep their homes cool.”
Traditionally applicants who are already getting food stamps and other DHS services have been pre-approved for LIHEAP.
In their statement announcing their take-over of the program in Hempstead and Nevada counties, CADC said “The mission of CADC is to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty, to help vulnerable populations achieve their potential and to build strong communities in Arkansas through community action, improve the quality of life and build strong communities in Arkansas.”
For Hope and Hempstead County, 2017 Summer LIHEAP applications will be accepted on Thursday’s from 1:30 pm until 4:00 PM, at the First Baptist Church located at 315 South Main Street in Hope.
For Prescott and Nevada County, 2017 Summer LIHEAP applications will be accepted on Monday’s from 1:30 pm until 4:00 PM, at the Prescott Library located at 121 West Main Street in Prescott.
The CADC says that all calls for more information should be directed to (501) 326-6211.  A call there Tuesday morning by the Hope Star resulted in a voice prompt naming off messages for several counties, including Hempstead and Nevada, and a general voice prompt to leave a message.
Todd Anderson was named as the CADC’s contact person, but Anderson did not reply back to the Hope Star before press time on Tuesday.