The tough economy is leading more and more people to seek financial help from social service agencies. Many people are losing their jobs and having to cut back hours, leaving some months behind on rent and utility payments. Officials at New Hanover County Department of Social Services said it is harder than some may think to ask for financial help. "Having difficulty making ends meet in these tough times, they have no choice but to come to us, and for some that's difficult," said Ann Barkley of New Hanover County Social Services. In November alone, New Hanover County saw nearly 50 new clients looking for help. "We are seeing a significant increase in the number of people that are coming in, due to the economic downturn," said Barkley. In July, at the beginning of the fiscal year, the federal government gave each county an allocation of funds to use in case of a crisis. New Hanover has more than $450,000 to work with. There, the crisis criteria only starts with looking at their clients income. In Pender County, with only $109,000 to work with, family make-up is a factor. "We look at those individuals that have young children in their homes, those with health related crisis. That would put them in jeopardy with any power, and also those people who are elderly," said Jacqueline Williams of the Pender County Social Services. A heating crisis is what had people in line for hours at the Columbus County Department of Social Services. But across the counties, these departments are looking to help clients find a means to an end. If they are in way over their head, helping with a single utility payment won't solve their problems. That's when social workers step in to help them get back on their feet. "So that they can leave here, with some hope, despite the times that are really tough for them right now," said Barkley. The Department of Social Services does not know how long the funds will last, but they are making sure each individual or family is given the appropriate amount.
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