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HEAP program begins Nov. 3

October 26, 2008

LISBON- Columbiana County residents needing emergency help with their home heating bills can start calling 330-424-1386 on Monday to schedule their application appointment with the Community Action Agency, but applications won't be taken until Nov. 3.

CAA officials said they're expecting an onslaught of applications that first week beginning Nov. 3. Carolyn Mattevi, supervisor for the Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program at the CAA Housing Department, asked that applicants "be calm and be patient."

Last year, she said they had people camped out the parking lot in the early morning hours. Police had to be called to the office at the rear of 7860 Lincole Place, Lisbon three times last year because people were getting upset, CAA Emergency Services Director Ruth Allison said.

"We're here to help them, but we can only see so many people a day," she said.

Mattevi said they can take about 10 walk-ins in the morning, working them into the schedule. Walk-in applications will be taken on a first come first serve basis. She encouraged people to call the automated line 24/7 for an appointment for the emergency HEAP, which provides help to low-income households with a disconnected utility, a disconnect notice or a 10-day or less supply of bulk fuel. Appointments can be made 10 days in advance.

"We're going to do whatever we can to make sure the needs are met," she said, adding special arrangements can be made for the elderly or those with handicaps.

Fact Box

Emergency HEAP Stats 2007-2008

- total spent emergency assistance $723,930

- 2,076 households received assistance

- 100 households had utility reconnected

- 959 households received bulk fuel

- 604 households had at lease one disabled member

- 425 households had at least one member 60 years old or more

- 347 households had at least one child under the age of 5 years old

- 1,027 households were at or below 75 percent poverty level

- 395 households were at the 75 to 100 percent poverty level

- 306 households were at the 101 to 125 percent poverty level

- 208 households were at the 126 to 150 percent poverty level

- 140 households were at the 150 to 175 percent poverty level

(Source: Columbiana County Community Action Agency)

The office is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. The program will continue through March 31.

According to a press release about the program, household income eligibility is based on the previous 90 days or 12 months gross income at 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. For a family of three, the maximum allowable income can't be more than $7,700 for the last 90 days or $30,800 for the last 12 months. Health insurance premiums and child support can be deducted from the total gross income.

Applicants must provide proof of the gross household income for the previous 90 days or 12 months, along with social security numbers and dates of birth for all members of the household. If anyone in the household is permanently or totally disabled, proof must be provided at the interview.

Considering the prices of fuel, Mattevi said the amount of assistance available grew this year, increasing from $600 to $950 for home heating fuel, from $600 to $750 for propane and from $250 to $350 for wood and coal. The assistance for natural gas or electric remained at $175.

The press release noted that anyone making an appointment for a utility disconnect notice must provide their social security number and utility account numbers, so the utility can be notified about the appointment time and extend the disconnect notice for five days.

Customers heating with bulk fuel must provide a current bill from the bulk fuel company or must know the name of their fuel supplier and bring in their current electric bill, the release said. Those applying for assistance with a metered utility must bring a disconnection notice or a statement from the utility company for a deposit or reinstatement of service.

Anyone applying for utility assistance will be required to enroll in a payment plan in order to clear the outstanding account default, according to the release.

For people on the percentage of income payment plan known as PIPP, Mattevi said the state is talking about changing the rules next year and they've been told to start warning people now. Plans call for requiring a payment of 7 percent of gross income instead of the 5 percent used now and for the program to be year-round.

If payments are made on time, part of a bill will be forgiven, but if payments are late, the customer won't be eligible for PIPP or the $175 option from HEAP next year to get reconnected.

Mattevi also noted applicants can file for both the emergency HEAP and the HEAP Regular program this year. Applications for the HEAP Regular program are available at post offices, libraries and utility companies throughout the county, with a portion of an eligible household's heating bills paid for the months of December, January and February

The amount of assistance depends on the total household income, the number of people in the household and the type of heating fuel used.

Applications for the HEAP Regular program can be made through May 31. For more information, call the state's toll free hotline at 1-800-282-0880.



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