EDINBURG – Hidalgo County Community Service Agency is asking for the public’s input on utility assistance programs through forums which will be held Monday through Wednesday.

Jaime Longoria, executive director of Hidalgo County CSA, said the purpose of the forums is to gather input and obtain feedback regarding the needs of low-income families and to get suggestions on how the agency can better address those needs.

Jaime Longoria

We are sponsoring three Community Needs Forums, where we go out into the community, we do this every three years. It is a listening tour, if you will, for our agency.

“As part of the process for receiving community services block grant money we are required by our statute to conduct a community needs assessment every three years,” Longoria told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“So, we are sponsoring three Community Needs Forums, where we go out into the community to gather feedback. It is a listening tour, if you will, for our agency.”

The forums will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Monday, April 30 at the Mayor Eugene A. Braught Memorial Theater;
  • Tuesday, May 1 at The Endowment Center in San Carlos; and
  • Wednesday, May 2 at the Pharr Development Research Center.

All the forums will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

Longoria said Hidalgo County CSA promotes self-sufficiency for low income and vulnerable households of the county by providing effective, efficient, and comprehensive services through partnerships and direct funding.

Longoria said he knows the value of the needs assessment listening tours because he oversaw one soon after he took over at CSA three years ago.

“Three years ago, when I took over this agency, we conducted a needs assessment. It was my first stab at it. In talking to people, we realized there was a very important segment of our low-income population that was not being served very well by any particular agency in our county. And that was, unfortunately, our veteran’s population,” Longoria recalled.

“We had a significant number of veterans who were struggling to make ends meet. We thought that was, quite frankly, disgraceful. When we uncovered that we decided to put a grant application together to go after some money from the Texas Veterans Commission to assist our veterans who were in need. We also able to help veterans who were interested in starting a business. We now see a wide variety of services for that particular population. “

Longoria said HCCSA had a similar finding with emergency services.

“We recognize that sometimes our partner agencies such as the Red Cross may be strapped for funds or their assistance may be limited. We identified that need for families that may lose their house to a fire, or families that may be in crisis because they are homeless or families that ae experiencing domestic abuse. We were able to dedicate some funding specifically for emergency services because of the findings that we had with this needs assessment.”

Longoria said collating the needs of low-income families can be achieved in a variety of different ways.

“We can utilize questionnaires, taken face to face, with the low-income population. We can visit with elected officials, we meet with leaders of community organizations, we do a series of focus groups, we also look at data, such as reports put out by the Census Bureau, the Texas Employment Commission, the Kids Count data book, which is produced by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. So, we have a variety of qualitative and quantitative data that we look at. We put all that together and we come up with a needs assessment, every three years.”

Now, Longoria said, it is time to do it all again. “We are inviting the general public to come in and provide us with some comments on how we can serve the low-income communities of Hidalgo County.”

Longoria added: “It is a pleasure working with all the stakeholders, working together with the media, to get the word out about events like this. It allows for government agencies to get a better handle on the services we provide. We invite everybody to come out.”

For more information, please contact (956) 383-6240.