LUMBERTON — The program administrator who oversees the county’s Low Income Energy Assistance and Crisis Intervention programs says that despite the Department of Social Services being closed several days in February due to snow and ice an “exceptionally high” number of county residents during the shortest month of the year still dropped by to apply for help to pay their energy bills.
But the bank isn’t empty.
“There’s still plenty of money available for those who are eligible to receive assistance,” Dial said. “We are encouraging those who think they may be eligible for assistance to come to our office and file an application.”
The deadline to apply is March 31.
Dial said that as of the end of February, $715,000 in Low Income Energy Assistance funds were still available to be distributed to eligible residents. This year the county’s allotment was $1,310,844.
According to Dial, 1,786 applications were filed in February, with each application representing a single household.
“That’s a lot of applications.” Dial said. “That represents a lot of people.”
Depending upon their income, eligible households receive $200 or $400. The payments are made directly to the household’s energy provider.
Dial said that American Indians must apply for energy assistance through the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. The tribe is responsible for handling energy and other social services programs for American Indians.
Criteria that households must meet in order to be eligible to receive energy assistance through the program include: having at least one U.S. citizen or non-citizen who meets the eligibility requirements; meeting an income test; having financial reserves at or below $2,000; being responsible for paying heating bills; having a valid Social Security number for each household member; having verifiable income, such as a bank account; and having a copy of a household heating bill.
According to Dial, from December until the end of February the county received a total of 2,544 applications. During the the period of December to March last year 1,761 applications were received.
Any money still remaining after March 31 will be returned to the state.
Dial said that February also found a large number of applicants, 696, applying for assistance through the Crisis Intervention Program, an assistance program where applicants must meet eligibility requirements similar to the Low Income Energy Assistance Program.
“There also must be a health or life-threatening case for anyone to receive assistance through the Crisis Intervention Program,” Dial said. “The applicant must submit a notice from their energy provider that their heating source is going to be cut off.”
Dial said that the Crisis Intervention Program program still has about $309,000 of its $882,291 fiscal 2013-14 allotment left to provide emergency assistance to eligible county residents. The fiscal year began on July 1.
The maximum that a household can receive under this program in one year is $600, Dial said.
According to Dial, since July 2013, 3,139 applications have been received for CIP funds. During the entire 2012-13 fiscal year, the county received a total of 5,466 applications.
Dial said that anyone who believes they may be eligible to receive assistance through either of these programs should apply at the county DSS office on N.C. 711.
“We hope to use the funds we have to help as many people as we can,” Dial said.