About 1,000 people showed up Tuesday evening at the Department of Family and Children Services offices in Macon to learn about various stimulus-related government programs available to Bibb County residents.
In fact, so many people arrived Tuesday that officials from the fire department and sheriff’s office had to turn many of them away, citing fire codes.
“I was extremely surprised at all the people we had inside and all around the building,” Bibb County Sheriff Jerry Modena said. “It was very peaceful. We just had too many people.”
The meeting offered unemployed and under-employed residents various assistance options based on need.
Officials from the state’s Department of Human Resources said that of the nine similar events they’ve held across the state, Bibb County’s response was by far was the largest — so much so that they’re planning a second event within the next few weeks at a more spacious venue to try to accommodate everyone. Those plans haven’t yet been finalized.
“This was our most well-attended event,” said Camille Cunningham, communications manager for the state’s DHR. “Macon definitely surprised us. People were OK with waiting. They’ve been in good spirits.”
Cunningham said the next-largest crowd in Georgia was about 750 people at a similar event in Atlanta.
Tuesday’s Macon event was designed to inform residents of various government programs available from federal stimulus funds that have been designated for each state. Officials said Georgia so far has plans to spend about $175 million but could draw up to about $300 million. The money could be used for things such as assistance with child care, housing, food stamps and utilities. There’s also a program that pays businesses to hire people as long as the business provides 20 percent of the salary. The federal government would pick up the remainder of the salary costs for up to six months.
Applicants normally would have been able to use a computer to apply for programs online, but because of the swell of people, the application process had to be rescheduled, officials said.
DeAndria Little, who attended one of the sessions, said she heard about the event from her brother. She showed up looking for help paying her power bill and finding information about job assistance.
“I got here about 4 o’clock, and there wasn’t a line then,” she said. The session began at 6 p.m.
“I feel lucky I got in,” she said. “I’m here for job placement. It’d be great if they can help me find a job.”
Elbert Gadsen, who works as a musician for a local church, said he found the sessions informative.
“There was a lot of (information) that a lot of people can use,” he said. “People are trying to make improvements on their life, trying to get bills paid. ... I’m just trying to keep my head above water. I’m not surprised at the crowd. There’s a lot of need in this community.”