So some people need help staying financially healthy as well.
So, it’s cool that the Bradley/Cleveland Community Services Agency can possibly help out some area folks.
The agency’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, better known as LIHEAP, again will start accepting applications for help with energy bills.
“The purpose of the program is designed to assist elderly, handicapped and low-income households to offset their heating and cooling expenses with a one-time payment to their energy source,” said Jackie Westfield, program coordinator at CSA. “A lot more people are seeking assistance this year at this time because the program has been out of money since March.”
Since then, more than 200 people have put their names on a waiting list.
So, new for this year, applications will be taken year-round. The program year does not run by the calendar year. Rather, it runs from July 1 to June 30.
“We used to just take applications periodically, except for crisis situations,” Westfield said. And new clients, as well as those on the waiting list, will have to call in for an appointment. That also means clients need to determine for themselves whether it is best to apply for assistance now or wait until another time of the year when they think their need might be greater. Only one application per calendar year will be approved.
“Clients need to know what works best for their situation,” she said. “That’s their call.”
Those interested in applying for help with energy bills must first make an appointment to apply for assistance. July 16 is the first day residents can start to call CAS for appointments for as early as the next day.
Those unable to physically make it to the CSA office can have someone else represent them.
Next, after setting an appointment, applicants must make sure they bring all the necessary paperwork with them to the appointment to avoid delaying their application.
Westfield reminds applicants it is important for them to bring their Social Security cards and the birth dates of everyone living in the house.
After the appropriate forms are filled out, the applicant must sign the paperwork. If this person is not able to sign, the person signing must list his or her relationship to the applicant and the reason why the applicant could not sign.
Make sure to bring copies of the history of electric and/or natural gas payments for the past year, as well as energy bills from all other sources being used.
Next, make sure that proof of all income for everyone living in the home is also provided. Acceptable proof of income includes: pay check stubs for the past 13 weeks; a copy of court orders or other legal documents; award letters and/or approval of benefits notices; written, signed and dated statements from employers; copies of income tax returns for income from self-employment; bank or financial institution records, such as direct deposit slips; records maintained by self-employed individuals; and/or copies of Social Security benefit checks from the same calendar year as the date of application.
Income levels that qualify for assistance are available at the CSA offices, but for just one example, a one-person household cannot make bring in more than $1,396 per month before deductions.
Not having the proper paperwork could result in delays in the application process.
Other important things to know about the program:
- Payments for approved clients will be made directly to the utility company for the client.
- Applicants who live in public housing must have a current or previous month’s overage, which should be more than $10, to be eligible for assistance.
- The energy that has been used helps to determine the amount of benefits. To figure out an applicant’s “energy burden,” the applicant must submit a bill showing the highest energy usage in the past 12 months.
- An applicant can submit bills for every source of energy that is used in the home, whether it is the main source of energy or not.
- Clients also need to remember they are responsible for their energy bills until they receive a credit on their bill or get fuel delivered.
“Under this new program, applications are processed on a monthly basis,” Westfield said. So, if a client applies on the first day in July 2012 this program is available, a determination will be made in August and whatever assistance is approved will be given in September.
However, Westfield wants to make sure clients know they can only file once for this type of assistance within a year’s time of the program. That means if a client files in July and gets assistance, this same client cannot reapply and get assistance until July of next year.
“Clients needing immediate assistance may apply for crisis assistance,” Westfield said. “However, they must meet the crisis guidelines ... a past due notice doesn’t necessarily qualify for emergency assistance.”
Receiving help from the crisis assistance program is based on having uncontrollable circumstances which must include either a shutoff notice, disconnected utilities or a lack of home-delivered fuel notice, in addition to at least one of the following:
- The people in the home have had an unanticipated medical or major household expense.
- The main income earner, with at least a year of stable work history, has lost his or her job within the last 12 months.
- The main income earner has not been living at the home for the past 45 days.
- The main income earner has died within the past 12 months.
- The main income earner has had a significant loss of work hours.
- The main income earner is ill and unable to work, and also does not receive sick leave or time away from work.
- The home has a non-functioning or malfunctioning heating system.
- There is a child under the age of 6 in the home.
- One member of the household is 60 years old or older.
- One member of the household is disabled.
The energy assistance program is funded, in part, by the Tennessee Department of Human Services.
In addition, the CSA continues to accept donations of fans.
The CSA office is located at 155 6th St., S.E. For more information, call Westfield at CSA at 479-4111, ext. 101.