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Upton Board Approves New Guidelines for Distress Fund

The Upton Board of Selectmen approved stricter guidelines for residents to receive financial support from the Ella B. Risteen and George Knowlton Distress Fund. The approval came during a September 27 meeting.

The Distress Fund was established to assist in-need citizens in town who have fallen on difficult financial times. Previously, there was no real formal process in place and instead the Board would distribute needed funding to residents as they saw fit. Although in favor of the new guidelines, Selectman Ken Picard noted they were a much different approach than done in the past. "It's a big change for us," he said.

In the beginning of September, Upton Center Director Jamie Garner requested the Board set up formal guidelines for citizens to qualify for the funds in an effort to make certain they were distributed fairly and to those residents truly in need of them.

The newly approved plan now requires interested residents to use the federal poverty level income guidelines to first establish if they qualify or not. Residents must also provide a copy of financial records received in the past 30 days such as bank statements or check stubs.

Selectman James Brochu also inquired if requesting the prior year's income tax returns should be necessary. "This is not cast in stone," said Selectman Chair Robert Fleming of the new guidelines, who added they may be altered in the future if need be.

Candidates must also meet with Gardner as part of the qualification process. An application must be completed which Gardner will then forward to the Town Manager and Board of Selectmen if he feels the resident qualifies for Distress Fund.

According to Gardner, the benefits of having him involved in the initial steps of the process is that he and staff at the Upton Center can discuss other services available to residents such as food stamps, fuel assistance, and other referral services.

Some of the suggested uses for the Distress Fund could include heating assistance, minor home repairs to keep residences safe and in livable condition, bill assistance including past medical or electric bills, and assistance with clothing or food in the event of a disaster or extreme distress. Some uses not allowed would be prescription drugs or paying for medical procedures.

Fleming said it's important to make certain residents have exhausted all possibilities before requesting assistance from the Distress Fund. For example, he said a homeowner should look into a home-equity line prior to asking for financial support from the Fund.

Picard agreed. "We should really be the last stop." Typically, any funds are distributed on a one-time request.

In other news, a tentative date of November 15 was discussed for a Special Town Meeting. One of the potential articles on the warrant will request voters to approve the acceptance of the Glen Echo roads. If passed, those roads will receive maintenance and snow plowing by the town's Department of Public Works.

The Board also appointed residents Jodi McGowan, Shelley Ryan, and Donnamarie Floyd to the Cultural Council and Kenneth Wood to the Historical Commission.


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