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Operation Threshold financial assistance programs.

Some of the main services offered by Operation Threshold, the community action agency of Black Hawk, Buchanan, and Grundy Counties, include housing, energy bill assistance, and food. Case managers will also work with clients on self-sufficiency, including job placement, budgeting, and financial literacy.

While resources are limited, and the agency relies heavily on government grants, the non-profit does it best to help the less fortunate in Iowa. If an assistance program is not available, then referrals or other forms of support may be administered by the agency.

The purpose of the Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) Program is to assist very low income people in search of safe, decent, and affordable housing in Iowa. TBRA also provides eligible participants with a grant to pay the full security deposit. They can also get help with paying rent on a recurring basis for housing units within the City of Waterloo. Note, the community action agency itself owns and manages rental units in both Waterloo and Independence Iowa. All housing selected by the applicant must be inspected (this is done for free) and found to meet or exceed Housing Quality Standards (HQS).

WIC applications are taken by Operation Threshold. The federal program is formally known as Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children. The community action agency has provided food assistance from WIC, nutrition counseling services, and more. Staff also offer referrals to other social services to pregnant women, infants and children. The WIC service area includes Black Hawk, Benton, Bremer, Chickasaw, Buchanan and Grundy Counties.

Homebuyer Education classes are organized. Topics covered include budgeting and financial management as well as energy conservation, anti-predatory lending, and home maintenance. Both pre- and post-purchase homebuyer education classes are taught in several sessions that are held by Operation Threshold over the course of a month.

Pre-Purchase or Loan Counseling covers Understanding the Home-Buying Process, tips on Saving Money for a Down Payment, Deciding what you can Realistically Afford and the Mortgage Amount to take out, Reviewing and Improving Credit , and Finding the Right Mortgage Lender.




Additional support is offered after the home has been bought. Post-Purchase Counseling from Operation Threshold includes Understanding Re-Financing Options, Avoiding and Delinquency/Default on Mortgage Payments, Free Foreclosure Prevention Counseling as well as Home Maintenance/Repair.

Weatherization is a resource that helps reduce the cost of heating and cooling a home. This is offered in Iowa for both renters and homeowners who meet income eligibility requirements.

If able to enroll, a program representative visits your home to evaluate its level of energy efficiency. Some of the available Weatherization benefits include water heater repair or replacement, the installation of insulation, adding extra caulking and/or weather stripping; furnace repair or replacement; replacement of old refrigerators and freezers as well as windows or doors if needed.

For additional assistance with energy consumption, Operation Threshold’s Energy Assistance Program is available to assist low-income and working poor families with paying for high home-heating costs.

As part of OT’s overall utility program, the LIHEAP - Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps low-income households meet the high cost of winter heating bills. In addition to that, there may be help for emergency furnace repair or replacement for income-eligible homeowners. Very rarely will be assistance with telephone bills or costs to those who qualify. Households with a senior or disabled member take priority for any LIHEAP grants. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis at sites in Black Hawk and Grundy County.

Crisis Utility Bill Assistance is available on a limited basis through Operation Threshold. The non-profit will provide financial assistance or cash grants to households dealing with crisis situations. Some of these can include utility disconnection, emergency fuel deliveries, and furnace replacement or repair. Income requirements set by the state for Crisis Assistance can vary, but the maximum income would match that for LIHEAP referenced above.

For making the transition from welfare to part or full time employment, the Family Development and Self-Sufficiency Program, or FaDSS, assists families on a voluntary basis. Case Managers from Operation Threshold are providing intensive, personalized case-management services.

FaDSS assists participating clioents from counties such as Grundy and Black Hawk with identifying family strengths and needs through home visits. They also coordinate support services, such as referrals, linkages, and advocacy. All of these aspects from Operation Threshold (OT) combine to help families in their efforts to gain employment and achieve Self-sufficiency.





Clients participating in the Family Investment Program, which is Iowa’s TANF Program, also can access Employment Training, Intensive Case Management as well as Educational Assistance, Crisis Intervention, Homelessness Prevention, and other stability services.

The CASH Course is a free educational program that offers advice on obtaining loans as well as information on money management, credit and banking issues. The workshops are taught by experts from several area agencies, including Operation Threshold.

The Financial Literacy Education program offers credit counseling services and education, including Solutions for Current Financial Problems, Debt Consolidation Loans, Rebuilding Credit, Foreclosure Prevention Services, and Money-Managing and Budgeting Advice.

The non-profit OT also offers educational programming in regard to dealing with so called predatory lending. Counselor visit church groups, housing fairs, charities and other gatherings. Get help in identifying and eliminating these loans, which can be payday, car title, rapid refund loans, and other types.

The Operation Threshold VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Service is available to low-income families residing in Black Hawk, Buchanan, and Grundy Counties. IRS trained volunteers prepare tax forms for free. They will ensure that income qualified clients are receiving accurate refunds by utilizing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Program.




Operation Threshold has a few main offices. There is one in each county supported. They include the following.

  • Buchanan County Office, 1707 First St., E-3, Independence, IA 50644, 319-334-6081
  • Grundy County Office, 1606 G Ave., Grundy Center, IA 50638, call 319-824-3460
  • Black Hawk County Office, 1535 Lafayette, Waterloo, Iowa 50704, telephone number is 319-291-2065


By Jon McNamara

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