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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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Some councilmen want to clean up Office of Community Action

Some councilmen want to clean up Office of Community Action

The Lafourche Parish Office of Community Action (OCA) is not doing its job, say some parish councilmen who voiced their concerns at Tuesday’s council public meeting in Mathews.

Citing loss of some programs and lack of spending where it counts, Councilman Daniel Lorraine chastised parish administration for lack of control over the office which is part of the Department of Community Services.
“We need to take back Community Action and run it ourselves. The administration has had it for the last few years and failed. It burns me up,” he stated.

Lorraine has been especially critical of one of OCA’s past activities, the parish’s weatherization program, and of a program which he says the department failed to get a grant for because of a missed deadline.

“There was another program where we could have assisted people with their homes, and we lost that because we did not apply for the grant in time,” he also offered.

OCA is charged with eliminating poverty by granting financial assistance to the needy as well as educating those in need to make them less dependent on aid.

Through Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) money, managed by OCA, applicants who meet certain guidelines are given emergency assistance for such things as rent, utilities, and food.

In 2013, Lafourche Parish received $253,773, and on Tuesday the council considered a resolution to accept another $266,383 for 2014 of CSBG grant money.

A report by Legislative Internal Auditor Dr. Tommy Lasseigne, given at Tuesday’s meeting, indicated the very little grant money spent in the first six months of 2014 actually went to applicants.

As of June 30th, Lasseigne said, about $70,000 or 84% went to salaries and training of administrators of the programs, with only the remaining 16% or about $21,000 going to people in need of assistance.

“You are supposed to be training residents with this money to help get them off of assistance. Too much money is going elsewhere,” said Lasseigne.

Councilman Jerry Jones believes that the OCA advisory board has not been included in decision-making regarding how the OCA does business.

For that reason, Jones moved to defer three resolutions on Tuesday, which would have accepted grant money for OCA, pending an OCA advisory board meeting to discuss them. All three motions to defer were supported unanimously by the council. John Arnold was absent.

The board is required to hold four meetings per year but has met only once in 2014.