The Ashe County Department of Social Services Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) still has roughly $36,000 of its $75,424 allotment to assist households in need with their heating bills this winter, according to Work First Family Assistance Supervisor Jennifer Parsons.
“One reason it’s slow to spend is the specified criteria,” Parsons said.
Only households with at least one member age 60 or older or a disabled member receiving services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services are eligible to receive benefits from Dec. 1 through Jan. 31 or until funds are exhausted, according to the N.C. Division of Social Services.
To qualify, a household must include a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen, meet income requirements, not have more than $2,200 in monthly resources, and be responsible for its heating bill.
Any household can potentially receive LIEAP benefits from Feb. 1, through Mar. 31, if funds are still available, according to NCDSS.
The program, which gives families a one-time vendor payment to help with their heating bills, works with all gas and heating oil vendors in Ashe County, Parsons said.
Parsons’ office also administers the federally-funded Crisis Intervention Program (CIP) which provides assistance to households that have difficulty affording to heat and cool their homes year-round.
The program offers up to $600 per year in direct vendor payments. Applicant families must have at least one U.S. Citizen or eligible non-citizen, meet an income test, and have a “heating or cooling related emergency” as defined by program criteria.
“It can’t just be a disconnect notice,” Parsons said.
But, while LIEAP funding was up nine percent over last year, CIP received $170,753, down from $219,928 – a 22 percent cut. And, unlike LIEAP funds, CIP money spends very quickly, she said.
Crisis Intervention Program funds typically come in two allotments per fiscal year, she said, and are gone within a few days to a couple of weeks. But applicants are encouraged to check back from time to time, as additional allotments are sometimes made available without notice.
“We can always use donations,” Parsons said. “The need is greater and the money is less.”
Some extra funding does come from charitable funds and private donations, she said. Tax-deductible donations of heating and cooling equipment are also accepted, but they must be new.
The programs serves most of their applicants, Parsons said, with LIEAP assisting 183 of 206 applicants this year, and CIP assisting 451 of 462.
But, she said, when the temperature drops and snow begins to fall, her office may get 50-60 calls a day from people needing assistance who are not eligible. Those who do not qualify for assistance are referred to other community service organizations like Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission and Ashe Really Cares.
Applications for LIEAP and CIP are taken at Family Central 626 Ashe Central School Road, Jefferson. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. For more information, call 336-982-7800.