DSS receives funds for heating bills

Mar. 11, 2014 @ 08:16 PM

For low-income families needing help with a heating bill, the Vance County Department of Social Services may be able to help — for a short time.

The department recently received an extra $150,000 in Low Income Energy Assistance Program, or LIEAP, funds. The program helps households that meet certain criteria by making a one-time vendor payment to cover the cost of a heating bill. That means the money will go directly to Duke Energy, for example, and not to the person requesting aid.

The money is available until March 31 or until it runs out, whichever comes first.

Cassandra Hart — social services supervisor for emergency services, Work First and childcare — said the extra money was sorely needed; the department ran out of funds — nearly $420,000 — for the program last month.

“We depleted the $419,000 on Feb. 17,” she said. “At that time, we did have some pending applications. We had to deny those persons because we didn’t have the funds anymore. They can actually reapply.”

Even those who applied and were rejected because they didn’t meet income requirements should try again; Hart said those who lost work in February from the winter storms might meet the criteria to receive assistance.

From Dec. 1 to Jan. 31, the program is only open to those who have a household member 60 years old or older or who receives services from the Division of Aging and Adult Services, but it opens up to include more low-income people beginning in February.

And there’s a lot of need; Hart said the department has served nearly 1,640 families since Dec. 1, 2013.

“On Feb. 3, which is the first working day in February, we assisted well over 300 people just that one day,” she said.

The funds went even more quickly than normal because of this year’s colder winter. The county had fewer dollars in the Crisis Intervention Program, which helps low-income families in a heating or cooling emergency.

“We depleted those funds at the end of January, so when February came, people were in need,” Hart said. “Of course, the temperatures have played a big part of that and continue to do so. This has been an unpredictable winter.”

Vance County received the extra dollars because some counties didn’t spend their full allotment. If the department doesn’t spend all $150,000, whatever is left will revert back to the state.

In order to be eligible, a family must meet all of the following:

• Meet income requirements;

• Be responsible for the heating bill;

• Not have resources move than $2,200;

• Be a U.S. citizen or eligible alien; and

• Must not have received LIEAP assistance since Dec. 1, 2013.

Interested Vance County residents may apply at the Department of Social Services. They should bring verification of February income for all family members as well as information on household checking and savings accounts; property, stocks, bonds and other assets; and the name, date of birth and Social Security numbers for each member of the household. If the home is heated with electricity or natural gas, applicants should bring in their account numbers for Duke Energy or PSNC.

Contact the writer at vshortley@hendersondispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter at @herding_stets.