HCHRA Executive Weighs in on the Need for More Funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Last year, for the first time in the 41-year history of Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA), the agency expended all of its Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds before the year’s end.  While this was partly due to a streamlined application process and increased operational efficiency, it was mostly attributable to the fact that Mississippi only receives enough funding to help 12 percent of the Mississippians who qualify for LIHEAP.

In a recent article published by Mississippi Today, Anna Wolfe, an investigative reporter on poverty, looked into how federal dollars are being allocated to fund LIHEAP and whether or not southern states like Mississippi actually receive their fair share.  Wolfe also reached out to HCHRA to see how funding impacts low-income citizens in Hinds County.

Wolfe spoke to David Knight, executive vice president for HCHRA, about a Jackson resident who received LIHEAP assistance from HCHRA in 2017, but is now having a difficult time securing an appointment to receive additional assistance.  Knight explained that the demand is so high, appointments are being scheduled thirty days out from the time any slots become available.  In 2018, funds ran out about halfway through the year.  “This year, they’re set to run out by fall,” said Knight.

The July 11th Mississippi Today article stated that the customer who was having problems scheduling the appointment, attempted to apply for LIHEAP this month in hopes that she could free up some of her household income to purchase school supplies and clothes for her children.  The article also stated the automated phone system kept dropping her calls, making it even harder for her to get an appointment.  HCHRA was pleased to report that by the time the article was published, the customer had already successfully scheduled an appointment and received the energy assistance she needed less than a week later.  The agency also reported that although there was not a problem with their automated telephone system, there was, in fact, a problem with its telephone service provider which resulted in dropped calls.  That problem has since been corrected.

HCHRA, like other Community Action Agencies who administer LIHEAP in areas where the funding is disproportionately allocated, is hoping that in the very near future, more emphasis will be placed on people’s needs based on poverty rates and energy burden than on states having the coldest weather.

Click here to see the full investigative report published by Mississippi Today on Mississippi being shortchanged on federal energy assistance funds for low-income homes.

HCHRA Participates in Community Resource Health Fair

In June 2019, Planning and Development Officer & Volunteer Coordinator Jessica Davis, along with the Childrens Services staff of Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA), attended the Community Resource Health Fair sponsored by Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center. Ms. Davis and Childrens Services staff were able to share information about HCHRA’s programs and resources to create greater awareness in the community about opportunities available through the Agency.  During the event, Children Services assisted individuals who were in need of Head Start services. Ms. Davis promoted volunteerism, passed out a Community Strengths and Needs Assessment and spoke one-on-one with participants about where they felt services were lacking in the community and what barriers or challenges they are facing that HCHRA could help alleviate.

To learn how you can receive services or programs offered at HCHRA, go to www.hchra.org.

 

 

HCHRA Passes Federal Triennial Review

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Head Start (OHS) recently conducted a monitoring review of Hinds County Human Resource Agency’s Head Start program.  The Triennial Federal Review of the Head Start Program resulted in NO FINDINGS.

During the review, OHS used the Head Start Monitoring System to gather data and other information to measure the performance, progress and accountability of HCHRA’s Head Start program and its compliance with the Head Start Program Performance Standards, the Head Start Act, and other regulations over multiple years.

The review included off-site and on-site reviews, and included reviews of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), Focus Area One, and Focus Area Two.

The Pre-K Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) is an observation tool used to analyze and assess the effectiveness of interactions between children and teachers in preschool classes – an important measure of quality.

Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) made great strides since its 2014 Federal CLASS Review. After reviewing the report, HCHRA took several actions to ensure higher teaching quality. Some of those actions included realigning the child assessment tools with the curriculum; investing in classroom staff by setting a 16 percent pay raise for teachers over a 5-year period to attract new teachers and retain the ones in place; and ensuring a significant amount of time and resources were provided for training and technical assistance to teaching staff.  The investment in training staff generated great results as all 4 education specialists, and 15 center administrators became CLASS certified. In addition to the management staff, 34 teachers also attended training and became CLASS certified.

The efforts made to raise the teaching quality of their program paid off. For the 2019 CLASS review, HCHRA scored from a quarter point to three-quarter points higher than they did during their last review in 2014. For example, Emotional Support had a score of 5.7167 in 2014 but scored 6.0806 in 2019. Classroom Organization gained 0.311 in 2019 and Instructional Support had the highest gain of .4481 from 2.4593 in 2014 to 2.9070 in 2019.

The investment made in training and resources allowed the grantee to deliver the best opportunities for children because, in addition to raising its CLASS score, HCHRA increased its student education goal to show a positive approach to learning through engagement, attentiveness, persistence, and curiosity by 3 percent in 2018.

Focus Area One evaluated program design, management, and governance structure, while the Focus Area Two (FA2) review looked at the agency’s effectiveness in implementing a high-quality program to promote positive outcomes and school readiness for children and their families.

The Triennial Federal Review of HCHRA’s Head Start Program resulted in no findings.  The written report issued by OHS stated, “Based on the information gathered during this review, we have found your program meets the requirements of all applicable HSPPS, laws, regulations, and policy requirements.”

 “It was particularly gratifying to receive the notice stating that we had met all of the requirements,” said Kenn Cockrell, president and chief executive officer of HCHRA.  “We often push our staff to go the extra mile to ensure that we’re doing more than the minimum that’s required.  Our hard work paid off and made this achievement possible.”

While conducting program reviews, the federal review team also looks to see if Head Start programs have any unique and innovative practices they’ve implemented to better serve families.  HCHRA received a personal, hand-written note from Dr. Beverly Bergeron, the director of the Office of Head Start and Early Childhood Development for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Serves, commending them for improving the efficiency by which they administer social services to Head Start families.  HCHRA recently completed a merger of its social and community programs to ensure that each of its families is linked to opportunities to increase stability and self-sufficiency.

Head Start is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.  Each year, HCHRA serves more than 2,000 Head Start families in its 16 centers located throughout Hinds County.  For more information on HCHRA, visit www.hchra.org.

Week of the Young Child Celebrated by HCHRA Head Start

During the week of April 8-12, 2019, each of the 16 Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) Head Start centers participated in the Week of the Young Child, an annual celebration hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children that celebrates early learning, young children, their teachers and families in which centers modeled a specific activity for each day of the week.

Head Start staff planned a week full of fun and exciting activities for the students to enjoy. On Music Monday, students marched to the beat while learning new math, language and literacy skills. On Tasty Tuesday, students and teachers created healthy snacks to encourage healthy nutrition. On Work Together Wednesday, students used teamwork to build together while developing social and early literacy skills.  Arts and crafts projects were created on Artsy Thursday as students developed their social and fine gross motor skills. During Fun-tastic Family Friday, teachers and students shared what family means to them and how they impact and influence their lives.

HCHRA Communications Specialist Carlene Parker spent time at a few of the Head Start centers capturing photos of the children engaged in fun learning during the week. Gertrude Ellis Head Start students moved their bodies to the music of the day, exercising for healthy bodies and strong minds.  Students at St. Thomas Head Start Center created multi-colored kites and unique abstract art by using straws to blow and spread paint in various directions as well as creating multi-colored art kites that expressed their favorite colors. The students at Mary C. Jones fashioned tie-dye shirts and created squishy slime, which generated squeals of excitement as they blended a mix of baking soda, dishwashing liquid and glue to make their very own supply of colorful slime.

Each day presented a new opportunity for learning and growing in unique and imaginative ways.

 

Hinds County Human Resource Agency Holds IMPACT Training

HCHRA Project Head Start held its final In-Service staff training on March 11, 2019 at the Jackson Marriott Hotel. Participants received valuable information on topics such as effective teaching strategies, school readiness, health and safety, nutrition, leadership, and food safety.

Head Start teachers Patrice Carr, Willie Smith and LaToya Turner attended the Promoting School Readiness workshop. They all agreed that the workshop was very beneficial and provided strategies they can use so that Head Start students will be ready for kindergarten and beyond.

In-service training workshop sessions ensure that staff is fortified with tools to provide support and the best learning environment for children and families who are a part of the Head Start program at HCHRA.

For more information on HCHRA’s Head Start program or services visit www.hchra.org

       

HCHRA Posts Significant Gains in Federal Review of CLASS

When Office of Head Start federal officials inspected Hinds County Human Resource Agency’s (HCHRA) Head Start program five years ago, CLASS observations were just beginning. Compared to other Head Start programs, HCHRA fared below average in two of three categories and unfortunately, fell in the bottom 10% of one category.

The classroom staff monitoring began in 2012 with an observational tool called CLASS, which stands for Classroom Assessment Scoring System and is devised to measure teaching quality. Developed at the University of Virginia, it quantifies three aspects of a teacher’s performance: instructional support, emotional support and classroom organization. These three domains have ten dimensions. In essence, it gives the federal government a report card on teacher quality in each of its nearly 1,600 Head Start programs.

After getting the report in 2014 federal review, HCHRA immediately began to redirect its operations to produce better outcomes. They first realigned their student assessment tools with the curriculum to produce more accurate data. Once they collected this data, they were better equipped to understand their results and use limited resources more wisely.

The agency then sought to invest in classroom staff by setting an aggressive teacher and teacher assistant pay raise schedule. Over the last five years, classroom personnel have seen a 16% salary increase. “Having competitive teacher salaries allows us to both recruit new teachers and to retain the already wonderful ones we have,” says Kenn Cockrell, HCHRA CEO. “In the Jackson metro area, we are competing for teaching staff with both our in-state and out-of-state neighbors.  While Mississippi continues to battle with the importance of raising salaries to match higher cost of living, HCHRA took a different approach five years ago and it is already paying off.”

HCHRA also invested a significant amount of time and resources in providing training and technical assistance to its staff. They insured that all education specialists and center administrators (principals) were CLASS certified. They trained and retrained staff on classroom management tools and even made the financial investment to have 34 teachers attend training to become CLASS certified so they could help their peers along the way.

HCHRA’s investments have paid off in a big way. HCHRA was once again inspected by the Office of Head Start in January 2019 using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System and it posted huge gains. Each CLASS dimension uses a 7 point scale. In just 5 years’ time, HCHRA was scored from a quarter point all the way to three quarter points higher than they did during their last review. This growth moved all ten dimensions to within the national average standard.

“We understand that gains in child outcomes are directly correlated with teacher gains,” says Cockrell.  “We owe it to our communities to ensure that we’re delivering the best opportunities for our children, and that’s what we’re doing by investing in our staff.”  Cockrell went on to say that the most important measure of success for HCHRA is the success of the children and families they serve.  One such measure of success is the 3% gain in student literacy goals HCHRA achieved in 2018.  “As for the future, HCHRA is looking to be in the highest 10% of all Head Start programs in the nation,” exclaims Cockrell. “Now is the time to move forward even further.”

Super Tax Day Yields Super Returns

Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) partnered with Entergy Mississippi to provide tax preparation services during Super Tax Day, which was held on Saturday, February 9th.

Citizens who earned $55,000 or less in 2018, were able to get their tax returns prepared at no cost by volunteers who were trained and certified by the IRS.  Customers who agreed to save part of their total refund at Super Tax Day event had an opportunity to win up to $50 in cash through a scratch off card promotion sponsored by Entergy, and their names were entered into a drawing for a $10,000 grand prize from the national Save Your Refund program.

“At Hinds County Human Resource Agency, our goal is to ensure that every opportunity we offer helps customers progress towards self-reliance,” said Kenn Cockrell, president and CEO of HCHRA.  “The greatest benefit of Super Tax Day is that our customers received professional tax preparation without having to spend hundreds of dollars for the service.  That’s more money they can keep in their pockets to manage their households and take care of other financial obligations.”

The response to Super Tax Day was tremendous.  HCHRA reported that 71 customers had their tax returns completed on that day and the agency was able to accommodate 27 more the following week at their Central Office location.  Income tax refunds for those customers totaled up to $286,596. Although, HCHRA has wrapped up its volunteer tax preparation services this year, anyone interested in receiving the services can call 2-1-1 for a list of other organizations that can provide the same great service at no cost.

 

 

 

 

 

Roger Lutrell, VP of Planning & Development for HCHRA, reviewing schedule to make sure customers are served as they arrive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Knight, EVP for HCHRA, with Leyla Godsell of Entergy, welcome customers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shiandra Luckett, VP for the Department of Family Opportunities, with Chelsea Luster, Associate VP of Head Start, provide information on HCHRA’s Head Start program

 

 

 

 

Hinds County Human Resource Agency Shares National Impact Report

How Community Action Agencies impact the lives of 15 million people across the country

On January 24, 2019, the National Community Action Partnership released the first National Community Action Impact Report: Building Opportunities for All.  This unique and comprehensive report looks at how Community Action Agencies across the country impact the lives of 15 million people each year, creating pathways to prosperity.

The Community Action Network is a robust local force of 1,000 local Community Action Agencies, reaching children and families in 99 percent of all U.S. counties. Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA), whose main office is located in Jackson, Mississippi and has service locations throughout Hinds County, Mississippi, is a member of the Community Action Network.  Community Action Agencies connect families to opportunities that help them succeed and promote community-wide solutions to seemingly stubborn challenges in cities, suburban, and rural communities.

HCHRA President and CEO Kenn Cockrell thought it was important to share the national report with local stakeholders to provide a national perspective on the needs families face in today’s uneven economy, and the impact Community Action has in communities every day.  “We believe understanding and awareness are key components to combating the issues of poverty,” said Cockrell.  “The more information we can share to enlighten others and gain support, the greater our positive outcomes will be with moving people from poverty to self-sufficiency.”

“This report tells the broad story of Community Action and all of the incredible ways our members are making an impact in their local communities,” said Denise Harlow, Chief Executive Officer of the National Community Action Partnership. “For 55 years, our network has developed innovative solutions to improve family well-being and directly impact and engage local communities.”

Spotlight stories throughout the report highlight successful initiatives across America relating to jobs, asset building, health and well-being, community development, children and families, and housing. HCHRA hopes that sharing this report will bring communities together to effectively address the causes and conditions of poverty and provide opportunities for success.

To access the report, visit www.communityactionpartnership.com/impactreport/.

Head Start Students Are Back to School and HCHRA Is Helping Families Thrive

Christmas is now just a memory and the 2019 New Year has begun.  Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) is off to a great start and has accomplished much upon its return to the second half of the 2018-2019 school year to help its Head Start families be successful.

At the beginning of January, HCHRA organized Project SOAR, a services, opportunities, assistance, and resource fair, to provide families with utility payment assistance through its Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.  While the event was open to the public, HCHRA went a step further to offer the same services to Head Start families during a scheduled appointment at their child’s Head Start center.

Later in January, HCHRA partnered with BankPlus to offer the CreditPlus financial literacy program.  CreditPlus provides clients with a small-dollar, short-term loan as an alternative to expensive payday loans.  Clients who completed the program got the opportunity to join a mainstream banking institution, establish a savings plan, re-establish their credit, and move forward with information to make wiser financial decisions.  Families who did not get a chance to participate in January, can sign up for classes to be held in near future.

Beginning February 4th, the agency partnered with Entergy Mississippi to provide tax services to families at absolutely no cost.  Head Start parents can contact the family opportunities advisor at their child’s Head Start center to schedule an appointment to have their taxes prepared by a certified professional through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. Parents who agree to save part of their total refund will be entered into a drawing for a $10,000 grand prize from the national Save Your Refund program.  Not only is there a chance to win a large cash prize, but parents who normally pay to have their taxes done can now save hundreds of dollars and keep their entire refund by utilizing the VITA program presented by HCHRA.

HCHRA is a nonprofit Community Action Agency that is dedicated to helping families and strengthening communities by moving people from poverty to self-reliance.  “The more opportunities we provide to create a stable home environment for our Head Start families, the more we contribute to the success of our Head Start students well into adulthood,” said Kenn Cockrell, HCHRA president and CEO.  “The family education programs and assistance we offer will positively transform family well-being long-term.”

For more information on HCHRA, its Head Start program, and the services available to Head Start families, click here.

Hinds County Human Resource Agency Hosts CreditPlus Program

On January 22, 2019, Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) partnered with BankPlus to present CreditPlus, a financial literacy program to help agency clients explore mainstream banking options and improve their credit scores.

CreditPlus is an alternative to high-interest payday loans and check cashing services.  It is a small-dollar, short-term loan with low interest rates designed to encourage participants to develop a regular savings plan. According to Roger Lutrell, vice president of planning and development at HCHRA, “Offering the CreditPlus program is part of a holistic approach we take to serving our clients.  Through this program, we equip our clients with information to help them make wiser financial decisions and we provide viable options to help them achieve financial stability.”

HCHRA clients were required to attend the CreditPlus seminar to receive a Certificate of Completion. They could then establish a CreditPlus checking and savings account with BankPlus and would no longer be forced to use expensive pay day lending or check cashing services, enabling them to save a significant amount of their household income.

Marcia Reed, a CreditPlus representative stated, “BankPlus was pleased to partner with Hinds County Human Resource Agency to present our CreditPlus Financial Literacy Seminar.  The three-hour free seminar covered information about types of credit, how credit can help or hurt you, the importance of savings, and the basics of budgeting and money management.  There was also information presented about credit reports, how your credit score is calculated and important steps to qualify for a loan.  Eighteen people attended the training.  Now they are ready to take the next step to improve their credit by qualifying for a small loan from BankPlus.”

CreditPlus seminars are held on a monthly basis.  If you are an HCHRA customer and would like to attend a class in the future, call the Department of Family Opportunities at (601) 923-3930.  We will make sure you know about every possible opportunity that’s available to you, and we’ll help make sure you’re on the right track to meet your financial goals.  You may also visit www.BankPlus.net/CreditPlus to sign up for a seminar near you.