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For Bonnie Cross, paying her electric bill is about more than staying warm in the wintertime. A single mother of four, one of Cross' children has asthma and must use a breathing machine. When her electricity is shut off, and it has been, the machine is useless.
For the last few years, Cross has been getting help with her bill through Community Action's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
"Our bills are really high," Cross said. "We live in an old farm house and it is drafty. Without Community Action, there is no way we would make it."
Jim Abrams and his wife live on a fixed income, and skyrocketing heating bills can cause them problems.
"Without [LIHEAP], possibly I would have to sell something to try to get the money together. It helps out a lot."
LIHEAP provides heating bill assistance and includes payments for coal, electric, fuel oil, gas (natural and LP), kerosene and wood to a wide variety of people - families, single parents, retirees and individuals.
On Friday, just six days into the application period for LIHEAP, Lovetta Quinn, Community Action outreach representative for Taylor County, said the number of approved applications is up 19 percent from the same period last year. And so far, nearly $10,000 more has been paid out. By last November, a little more than $12,000 had been paid out. This year, $21,281 has been paid.
"The need is definitely up," Quinn said. "I'm having people come in that we are having to deny. If they are even close to meeting the income requirements, they come in."
In the first six days, Quinn said, she turned away about 10 people who did not meet income guidelines.
The state has already responded to the increased need. Those who qualify for aid will see a 40 percent increase over last year, thanks to an extra $75 million in funds for LIHEAP this year.
There are two components to the program, subsidy and crisis. The subsidy component operates in November and December and helps those eligible. Community Action will pay a household's bill one time. The crisis component operates from Jan. 9 until mid-March and helps people who have received a disconnect notice or who are within four days of running out of fuel oil, propane, kerosene, wood or coal.
The funds go directly to the utility companies, Quinn said.
Applications are taken alphabetically by the last name of the head of household. The application period began Nov. 3 (See sidebar). Those who are interested must call 465-6554 to schedule an appointment.
The most recent heating bill, Social Security number or Permanent Resident card number for everyone living in the home and proof of total household income for the prior month are required to complete the application.
Quinn said applicants will usually be informed the day they apply if they qualify.
To be eligible, household income must be at or below the following, relative to household size:
1 - $1,127.
2 - $1,517.
3 - $1,907.
4 - $2,297.
5 - $2,687.
6 - $3,076.
7 - $3,467.
8 - $3,857.
Add $390 for each additional family member.
Those eligible must also be responsible for home heating costs or pay heating costs as an undesignated portion of rent and must not have in excess 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 except for households where a member has a catastrophic illness, the amount may be $4,000 when the resources are being accessed for medical and living expenses.
Nov. 17 - F, G
Nov. 18 - H
Nov. 19 - H
Nov. 20 - I, J
Nov. 24 - K, L
Nov. 25 - M
Dec. 1 - M
Dec. 2 - N, O, P
Dec. 3 - Q, R
Dec. 4 - S
Dec. 8 - S
Dec. 9 - T
Dec. 10 - U, V, W
Dec. 11 - X, Y, Z
Dec. 12 - Open enrollment.