City of Belfast extends helping hand to family in need

Posted Aug. 17, 2011, at 1:53 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 17, 2011, at 7:24 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — A local family that has been dealing with a tough economic situation after a recent illness will be given a major helping hand, thanks to the Belfast City Council and the city’s poverty fund.

“What I know about it is a family of six fell on some pretty hard times. There was some sickness. They were about to be evicted,” Belfast Mayor Walter Ash said Wednesday. “People in our community are pretty decent about trying to help one another.”

On Tuesday night, the councilors voted to use up to $1,775 from Belfast’s poverty fund to give the family, which has not been identified, one-time assistance to ward off the eviction.

City Manager Joe Slocum wrote in his request to the council that in normal times both parents work, but when the mother became suddenly ill, the family’s job security vanished.

“I have reviewed their financial situation and I believe that if we don’t offer assistance then this productive family will spiral downward quickly, creating an environment that is not healthy or beneficial to anyone, especially the young children in the household,” Slocum wrote.

Ash said that it is fairly rare for the city to use its poverty fund, which is money set aside every year to help the poor. All requests made for assistance from that fund must be decided on by the city council.

“It takes council approval, and the council gave the city the blessing to do it,” Ash said. “You can’t just throw a bunch of little kids out on the street. Nor would I want to.”

The family had initially applied for help from General Assistance, but their income was $112 per month more than the maximum allowed to make them eligible to receive help from that fund. A local church has been helping to keep their electricity on, Slocum wrote.

The $1,775 will be used to pay rent for both July and August, he said. The mother expects to be able to return to work in September but is applying for disability benefits. If she receives disability for the period of July and August, she will refund the city of Belfast one fifth of the amount of her benefits.

Ash said he’d rather see the city spend money to help people who have been contributors to the community in the past, rather than folks who don’t do much except take help.

“Help thy brother, you know, if you can,” he said. “That’s what makes us a real strong community.”

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