The Journal Gazette
Monday, January 18, 2021 1:00 am

Five questions for Austin Knox

Wayne Township trustee

1 You took over about a year ago. How have things been, in general? How have you and your staff had to adjust amid the pandemic?

Things started off pretty normal when I first took office in January of last year, but they took a turn for the worse around March as COVID-19 began to hit our community. There was no playbook for how to run the office during a pandemic, so we had to make one for ourselves. Luckily, I have a great team here at the township.

We arranged for as many of our staff as possible to work from home, and we put policies and procedures in place to keep safe those who were still working in the office. We began taking requests for assistance over the phone from those who have them, and for those who didn't we allowed them to use the phone in our lobby to request assistance. Another adjustment we had to make was to conduct our board meetings via Zoom. Our board members (Pat Turner, Bruce Stier and Tony Henry) have been great working with me to make sure we have what we need to continue operating.


People around the U.S. have been hit hard financially by COVID-19. Have you seen that in Wayne Township? In what ways?

The extra federal assistance that became available and the utility disconnection/eviction moratorium slowed business just enough at the beginning of the pandemic to allow us to figure out how to work both remotely and in the office safely. Once the moratoriums were lifted, our requests for assistance picked back up with requests for help with larger utility bills. Now we continue to receive many requests, most frequently for utility bill assistance.


In which ways are people in the township seeking help? What kinds of resources are available to your office to provide assistance?

According to Indiana state law, township trustees help eligible citizens when their own personal efforts are not enough to provide their basic needs for themselves. We do investigative work to make sure the individual meets the requirements for assistance set forth in the state code and in our township standards. The major types of assistance we provide include shelter, essential utility services, food, paper products, clothing, transportation, medicines and burials. We are able to provide that assistance with property tax dollars.


What feedback are you getting from residents who need help?

This pandemic has touched everyone in one way or another; physically, financially, emotionally or mentally. People have been laid off from work, lost their jobs or have had loved ones pass away.

As mentioned earlier, the majority of requests are for utility assistance. There has been an increase of people who have contacted the township for the very first time, and I believe this is due to the pandemic. Most of these requests are for rental and utility assistance. Also, there are several requests for cleaning products such as bleach and sanitizer.

Since I became the trustee, it has always been a goal of mine to make sure people feel at ease when they have to request assistance from the township. With the pandemic adding extra life stresses, that goal has never felt more important.


5 If residents need help, how should they reach out to your office?

While we are still in this pandemic, we ask people to call 260-449-7000, ext. 312, to schedule an appointment for assistance. If someone does not have a phone, then we ask that they come down to the office. A person in need of help should contact us right away to avoid further late charges or disconnection of their utilities, and we ask for patience as working remotely has made the job more challenging for our team.

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