12/09/11 — There's still money available for winter heating help in county

View Archive

There's still money available for winter heating help in county

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 9, 2011 1:46 PM

As of Thursday afternoon, 211 households had been approved and $56,800 committed of Wayne County's $720,000 allocation for the revamped Low Income Energy Assistance Program.

"We still have quite a bit of money at this point," said Debbie Jones, director of the county's Department of Social Services, which administers the program. "It is hard to compare to previous years because of the ways the program has changed."

However, Mrs. Jones said she feels sure all of the money will be expended before the program's Jan. 31 deadline.

Applications are being taken at four sites, but as of 1 p.m. today, two of those sites will close -- the one at the WAGES Mount Olive Nutrition Site and the one at the Pikeville Community Center.

"Mount Olive saw an early rush, but has greatly fallen off," she said.

In Pikeville there were days when only one application was taken since the filing period opened on Dec. 1, she said.

"That (closing) will allow me to pull workers back here to where we need them," Mrs. Jones said. "More people are coming into the office. That will make us more efficient."

Applications for persons age 60 and older or disabled persons who receive SSI, SSA or VA disability and who are receiving services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services will be taken now through Jan. 31, 2012, or until funds are exhausted.

Applications will still be taken at:

* Wayne County Department of Social Services, 301 N. Herman St., Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

* Wayne County Services on Aging, 100 S. John St., Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Fridays 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. through Dec. 16 or until the money is exhausted.

In prior years, the applications were taken in November and payments were sent directly to program recipients in February. Also, it was an entitlement program. The federal government funds the program and has changed it to an allocation and once the money is spent there is no more, she said.

Previously, all households participating in the Food and Nutrition Services Program (formerly called Food Stamps) were automatically approved. Now all households must meet income and resource eligibility requirements and must apply for LIEAP funds; there are no longer automatic approvals.

That has meant additional work for DSS staff, she said.

All members of the household must be 60 years of age or older, or at least one household member must be disabled and receiving services through the Division of Aging, she said.

In some cases, people might meet the eligibility requirements but won't receive any assistance because they do not receive assistance through the Division of Aging, she said.

In addition, the General Assembly is requiring that the energy payments be made directly to the service provider, such as power, gas or oil companies during the month of the application.

That can be a problem because not all vendors are participating in the program, Mrs. Jones said.

Also changed is the amount of money that is awarded. In prior years, the amount ranged from $60 to $120. It is now $200 or $400 depending on the fuel being used.

People who heat with wood, natural gas, coal or electricity will be eligible for $200, while people who heat with fuel oil, kerosene or LP gas will be eligible for $400.

If funds remain available after Jan. 31, 2012, any other eligible households may apply during February through the end of March.

"I don't know that we will get to that point," Mrs. Jones said. "In my opinion we will spend it all on the elderly before we get there."

For more information, contact your local county department of social services. A list of these offices and contact information is available at www.ncdhhs.gov/dss/local/.