Energy assistance programs on radar as winter approaches

Energy  assistance programs on radar as winter approaches
October 29
00:00 2015

Above: Tashina Oladunjoye (Submitted photo)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) annually helps low income individuals with their bills related to heating and air conditioning in the summer.

U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (N.C. District 12) announced that the DHHS has released $77.7 million to help North Carolina families stay warm this winter.

Adams was among 75 members of Congress last week who sent a letter to DHHS urging swift release of the funds. In total, more than $3 billion was released nationwide.
“This is great news for the more than 220,000 North Carolinians who rely on energy assistance programs to keep warm during the winter and cool during the summer,” Adams said in a release. “No one should have to choose between heating their homes or feeding their family. This announcement comes just in time for the winter weather season.”

During the 2015 fiscal year, $3.35 billion in LIHEAP funds were released. In the 2014 fiscal year, 6.6 million households got heating assistance and more than 1 million households got cooling assistance from LIHEAP.

In North Carolina, the program is known as LIEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program) and those in need locally apply for the assistance though The Salvation Army of Winston-Salem. The nonprofit takes applications for both LIEAP and the federally funded Crisis Intervention Program, which provides heating and cooling assistance for those in emergencies.

Households that apply for LIEAP don’t need to be in an emergency. It provides a one-time payment to vendors to help with heating bills. Starting Dec. 1, seniors age 60 and over or a disabled person receiving benefits through the Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) can apply for LIEAP.
Beginning Jan. 1, all other households can apply. They need to meet an income test, have reserves at or below $2,250, be responsible for their heating bills and have at least one U.S. citizen or non-citizen who meets the eligibility criteria.

To make an appointment, applicants should call the Salvation Army Emergency Services Office on Cleveland Avenue once LIEAP begins. Applicants will need to bring documents proving their identity, income and assets of those living in the household. The program runs through March or until funds run out.

Salvation Army Director of Social Services Tashina Oladunjoye said the program is so heavily used that The Salvation Army adds extra hours and staff in January to help with the requests for heating assistance because the agency can get hundreds of calls a day for utility assistance. She said the LIEAP assistance ranges from $100 to $300 toward a household’s heating bill.

“We have individuals who are the working poor – individuals who work every day, they work long hours and they still cannot meet ends, they can’t get their bills paid on time or there’s lots of overdues,” she said. “So this helps them.”

The Salvation Army Emergency Assistance Office is located at 901 Cleveland Ave. and can be contacted at 336-722-8721.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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