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Energy assistance program begins

The Department of Public Welfare’s Blair County Assistance Office has announced applications are now available for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
According to a release from the Blair County Assistance Office, LIHEAP is a federal program that assists low-income individuals who cannot pay their heating bills. Eligible households can receive assistance through a direct payment to vendors who supply their fuel, or through a crisis component during weather-related emergencies, such as a broken furnace, leaking pipes, or terminated utility service.
Homeowners, renters (including those whose rent includes heat), roomers and subsidized housing tenants may be eligible. Any type of fuel may be used.
Both the cash and crisis component of the program were opened on Monday. Both components will close on March 22, 2007. Besides household income, grants are based on the type of fuel used and the county of residence.
The Blair CAO Executive Director Christine Lysinger said, “I urge all families who receive mail-in applications to return the form promptly. Families who didn’t receive applications can obtain one from the County Assistance Office.”
To be eligible for the program, household income cannot exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines, or for a one-person household ($14,700), two persons ($19,800), three persons ($24,900), four persons, ($30,000), five persons ($35,100) and six persons ($40,200). For larger households the guidelines increase by $5,100 for each additional person.
Governor Ed Rendell expanded income eligibility from 135 to 150 percent of the federal poverty income guideline for the 2006-07 LIHEAP program. According to information from the state of Pennsylvania, the change will allow an additional 67,000 families to qualify for the program.
A press release on Gov. Rendell’s web site noted that this is the second year that eligibility for LIHEAP has been expanded to help more low-income families pay for home heating fuel and furnace repairs.
“Again this winter, many low-income families will struggle to heat their homes and keep their loved ones warm,” said Rendell. “By expanding the income eligibility and raising awareness of LIHEAP, we can help thousands of families avoid a heating crisis during the winter months.”
Last year, 385,000 households in the state received $91.23 million basic LIHEAP cash grants to offset heating bills. Crisis grants totaling $64.81 million aided 153,484 households with heating emergencies.
Those needing assistance in a heating emergency can contact LIHEAP 814-946-7365. The service is available 24 hours a day for emergencies.
Those outside of Blair County should contact their County Assistance office, local utility and community service agencies for an application. Cash grants can also be applied for online at http://www.compass.state.pa.us.
A toll-free hotline is also available through the state’s Department of Public Welfare at 1-866-857-7095. The hotline is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.