Waccamaw economic agency at risk serves thousands

Thousands of residents in Horry, Georgetown, and Williamsburg counties could lose essential services if the Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council does not comply with state oversight regulations to fix infractions found in a state audit, according to Executive Director Elizabeth Fryar, with the EOC.

The Waccamaw EOC serves about 8,000 to 9,000 low-income people through its program providing assistance to meet home energy costs. And there are about 5,000 people on the waiting lists, Fryar said.

The Waccamaw EOC serves Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties and also administers the Head Start program, which is funded separately.

"We always have a waiting list," Fryar said. "We never have enough to meet the need."

Besides energy help and Head Start, the agency uses community service grants to offer employment training, housing aid and youth programs.

Fryar declined to talk about the audit done by the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity. EOC Board Chairman Zach Grate did not return calls for comment Thursday.

The audit, performed by the state and released March 26, found numerous areas of concern including missing data. Among them are allegations that EOC board members used their positions for personal gain, conducted improper elections to board positions and operated with a lack of proper racial, economic and geographical representation on the board and its commissions.

"At this point I do not think it would be appropriate for me to comment," Fryar said.

The Waccamaw EOC's board is expected to discuss the audit at about 5 p.m. Tuesday at Waccamaw EOC's office, 1261 U.S. 501 E., Suite B in Conway.

The Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council has until April 12 to submit e-mails and other oversight information to the state's Office of Economic Opportunity or risk losing $8 million in funding, said Louise Cooper, from the state's OEO office.

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