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The Missouri Department of Social Services is asking for public comments on part of the COVID-19 relief plan.

People may leave comments on the Missouri Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding plan amendment by emailing [email protected] or by sending mail to CSBG, 3418 Knipp Drive, Suite A2, Jefferson City, MO, 65109.

Comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. Aug. 28.

Access dss.mo.gov/fsd/csbg/csbg-sup-fndg-amend-invite.pdf to learn more about the amendment.

The amendment provides $24.9 million in grants, above $18.1 million approved through Community Service Block Grants. The grants go to 19 Missouri community action agencies, such as Central Missouri Community Action, which serves eight counties — Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau and Osage.

CMCA uses block grants and community support to help clients with employment, education, housing, nutrition, emergency services, health and to better use available income. The agency operates and contributes to Head Start, Early Head Start, Utility Assistance Program and others. The nonprofit received about $1.09 million through 2020 Community Service Block Grants and $1.5 million from CARES Act funding.

The CARES Act funding from the state is an important tool the nonprofit may use over about the next two years, Chief Program Officer Angela Hirsch said.

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"We will be using this money to work with individuals and families who have been hardest hit by the pandemic," she said. "We will be making sure their basic needs are being met."

The agency will focus on making certain families have food on their tables and roofs over their heads, she said.

"We'll work with families to get them past that crisis point, to develop a long-term plan on how best to respond or bounce back from how COVID affected them," Hirsch said.

Money may be used to help with job training or finding new positions.

A goal is to implement a "financial opportunity center" in Central Missouri. It will hire financial coaches to work with families, so they don't just build a budget, but also build assets.

"We can help families develop real financial security," she said.

Another goal is to work with community partners so they don't duplicate services. CMCA works with partners like Common Ground Community Building, Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, and the Samaritan Center that provide rental assistance and other services.

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