LIHEAP offers assistance for paying energy bills
The coronavirus and its impact are reigning topics these days, and that impact ranges from virus-related deaths to job loss to toilet paper shortages. As the pandemic continues to affect individuals, communities and the nation at large, programs and plans continue to be put into place to help those most in need. One of those programs, open to Franklin County, is LIHEAP.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is a federally-funded effort “to help eligible low-income households pay for their home energy bills,” according to the program description at energyright.com.
With unemployment claims soaring as businesses are forced to make layoffs, there are likely more families than ever in need of such assistance.
In Franklin County, 341 insurance claims were filed during the last full week of April. In the preceding weeks, claims totaled 275 for the week ending April 18; 354 for the week ending April 11; and 565 for the week ending April 4; and 675 for the week ending March 28, according to the Alabama Department of Labor, as the pandemic began gain strength.
For Franklin County, LIHEAP assistance is being administered through the Community Action Agency of Northwest Alabama.
“If persons are experiencing difficulty paying their utility bill, then we certainly want them to fill out an application or make an appointment,” said CAANW executive director Tammy McDaniel. “This is a good opportunity for folks who meet the guidelines.”
Applicants must meet the following annual household income benchmarks to qualify:
- $18,735 or less for a single person household
- $23,365 or less for a household of two
- $31,995 or less for three
- $38,625 for four
- $45,255 for five
- $51,885 for six
- $58,515 for seven
- $65,145 for eight
In addition to the household income guidelines, McDaniel said applicants must submit all the the required information and documentation.
Although in the past applicants had to make an appointment to submit their information in person – and that avenue is still an option – McDaniel said she is excited that community members now have the option to print off an application packet online to either mail, hand-deliver or email to CAANW for consideration. She encouraged applicants to be sure to carefully read all the application information – available at www.caanw.org – and include all required information and documentation when they apply. Incomplete applications cannot be considered.
Funds might be granted for uses from paying heating/cooling bills to making weatherization upgrades – like fixing leaky doors and windows, installing insulation or fixing a broken or inefficient furnace or air conditioner – to make the home more energy efficient.
Money for utility bills is available on a one-time assistance basis, McDaniel noted – not as an endless source.
“Adequate home heating and cooling are a necessity of life,” reads the program page through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “If you can’t heat or cool your home properly, you can put your family at risk for health and safety problems. The elderly, disabled and young children often feel a bigger impact from even small changes in indoor temperature.”
Although McDaniel said her office expected to see an upswing in requests for assistance because of the coronavirus, that hasn’t been the case – at least not yet.
“I thought we’d be slammed, but we’re really not,” McDaniel said. She said community members have likely benefited from some utility departments delaying shutoffs because of late payment, and some might have used their government stimulus checks to stay on top of their bills. Nevertheless, when and if the time comes, the CAANW stands ready to assist those who qualify.
“We’re here. We’re open; we have never shut our doors a single day,” McDaniel said. For those who do come to apply in person, McDaniel said a glass partition will separate applicants and CAANW workers, for the health and safety of both.
As summer heats up, McDaniel said the CAANW will continue to help until the funding runs dry.
“When people need help, you don’t hold back on the money. You just go ahead and spend it,” she said. “We expect there to be funds for some time to come.”
For more information call the Community Action Agency utility line at 256-764-5142.