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Need for heating assistance increasing

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By Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

Tri-County Community Action Agency director Bryan Raisor said his phone has been ringing off the hook since August with people wanting information about winter energy assistance. He said he expects the number of applicants to be dramatically higher in 2008 because of the economic downturn as well as higher heating fuel costs.

He said the agency will accept applications for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program starting in November.

Raisor said 345 clients received assistance in 2007. “Our county alone spent $55,000 helping those people,” he said.

Henry County residents who wish to apply must provide the following to be considered for assistance:

• Most recent heating bill or landlord’s verification that heating expenses are paid as part of rent.

• Social security number or permanent resident card number (green card) for everyone living in the household.

• Proof of preceding month’s income for all household members.

There are two types of assistance provided by LIHEAP, subsidy and crisis funding.

Subsidy assistance is paid directly to the household’s heating vendor. “It’s just to help people out,” Raisor said, “so they have some money for food and things.”

Applications for subsidy benefits will be accepted between Nov. 3 and Dec. 12. Applicants must apply in person on a day designated according to the first letter of applicant’s last name.

Subsidy benefits provide a voucher payable to the household’s heating fuel vendor. The benefit amount is based on household income and the type of fuel used for heating. Those households with the lowest incomes that use fuel with the highest heating season costs receive the highest benefit.

All eligible households will receive a benefit. Recipients may apply only once per season for subsidy assistance.

Applicants must be responsible for home heating costs or pay heating costs as an undesignated portion of rent.

Applicants may not have more than of $2,000 in liquid resources or $3,000 if at least one person in the household is age 60 or older and/or disabled. In the event a household member has a catastrophic illness, the amount may be $4,000 when resources are being accessed for medical and living expenses.

Crisis applications may be made from Jan. 5 through March 31, 2009 or until available funds have been expended.

Applicants must be within four days of running out of fuel if wood, coal, propane, fuel oil or kerosene is the heat source. Otherwise applicants must have received a disconnect/past due notice from heat provider. Applicants whose rent includes heat must bring an eviction notice from the landlord.

Benefits are limited to the amount necessary to relieve the crisis. The maximum amount will be the cost for a deliverable supply of primary heating fuel or $250 for gas or electric. Crisis benefits may be fuel deliveries, service reconnection, blankets or sleeping bags, loan of space heaters and emergency shelter. Crisis relief will be provided within 48 hours, 18 hours in an emergency.

Applicants who are unable to apply for themselves must contact the Tri-County Community Action Agency to make other arrangements. If the designated representative is not the head of the household or spouse, the representative must have a signed statement giving authorization to apply for the household. Tri-County may be able to assist in finding a representative. Only one person per household should apply

Residents must apply in person at the Henry County TCCAA, 125 Park Road, New Castle. Dates to apply are sorted by the first letter of the applicant’s last name. Please refer to the alphabetic chart for date. Those who cannot apply on assigned day should call Bryan Raisor at (502) 845-7808 to make arrangements.

Weatherization services also are available to low-income households. Raisor said income guidelines are a little higher for weatherization than for subsidy and crisis heating help. “Households can be at 150% of the poverty level for this assistance,” he said.

Raisor said the program may provide insulation, new windows, even a new furnace in some cases. He said the director of the weatherization program, Mark Powell, will inspect the home to assess its condition and needs before assistance can be offered.

Raisor said there also are different guidelines for home owners and renters. If a home is a rental, the paperwork has to go through the landlord.

He suggested that residents interested in the weatherization program call and set up an appointment.

“They should set up an appointment, but not when LIHEAP applications are being taken,” Raisor said. The number is (502) 845-7808.

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