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News State / Region LIHEAP funds could ease burden for some residents during cold winter blast

This winter, Macon County residents have seen record low temperatures invade the area. Often times, the only reprieve that can be had comes when the dial on the thermostat is turned up. Seeking warmth is only natural when the temperatures are as low as they have been, but what are people supposed to do when the power bill comes and the cost of that warmth is over their monthly budget?

One option that may be be considered are funds provided by the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that can be applied for at the Macon County Department of Social Services (DSS). LIHEAP is a federally-funded program that provides a one-time vendor payment to help eligible households pay their heating bills.

From December 1 to January 31, only households that contained an elderly person age 60 and above or a disabled person receiving services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) were eligible to potentially receive benefits. As of February 1, any household may apply for benefits. A household that applies must:

  • Have at least one U.S. citizen or non-citizen who meets the eligibility criteria
  • Take an income test
  • Have reserves at or below $2,200
  • Be responsible for its heating bills

In 2012, NC LIHEAP provided 68,445 households with financial assistance for heating and 66,200 homes with cooling assistance. 24 percent of those helped were elderly, 21 percent were disabled and 14 percent were children under the age of 5.

N.C. families receiving LIHEAP assistance have incomes below 110 percent of the federal poverty level with the majority falling far below the cap. The average household in the state received $202 in 2011.

According to data obtained from www.liheap.org from the year 2011 to 2012, N.C.'s allocation fell from $116.2 million to $83 million. After the sequester went into effect in 2013, the program was cut by 5 percent, or around $175 million, the total was $78 million. In 2014, the allocation is $76.5 million.

Shaina Adkins, Executive Director at CareNet here in Franklin is thankful for the relief that comes from the funds.

“On numerous occasions, I have personally interviewed with a family that has informed me that without our assistance at CareNet and being able to provide assistance with a disconnect notice for Duke Energy, they would have had to make the choice of either going without heat for their family or possibly without being able to put food on the table,” said Adkins. “It’s a sad state of affairs when you have a mother and/or father sitting across from you, who may have lost their job or had their hours cut at work and they are ashamed of being ‘in the position they are in’ to ask for help. I would have to say that without the Emergency Heat Assistance funds here in our community, many agencies like CareNet would be financially strapped to provide for those in need, not to mention the families that rely on those funds to get them through difficult times.”

In Macon County, applications will be accepted beginning on Monday, Feb. 3, for individuals and families with the lowest income according to a notice given by DSS.

“All households determined to be eligible for LIHEAP must provide the agency with the name of the vendor they would like payment remitted to. All electric utility customers seeking assistance with their utilities must bring a copy of the bill for accurate account information.”

Applicants must also provide verification of January's income.

For more information, contact Macon County DSS at (828)349-2124.


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