Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

January 11, 2014

Heating assistance: Help available for area families

— — While the so-called polar vortex may have brought the coldest air of the season to the region earlier this week, Old Man Winter is really just getting started. But the struggle to keep homes and families warm can be a real challenge for many families in our region, including those who are low-income, elderly or disabled.

The powerful blast of polar air that we saw earlier this week forced many to crank up their heaters and thermostats. As a result, those who had their heaters cranked up in recent days can expect significantly higher electric and gas bills. And that can present a serious challenge for those families who are struggling to make ends meet.

That’s why families who are in need of heating assistance are encouraged to take advantage of the upcoming application period for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. The Department of Health and Human Resources will begin taking applications Jan. 21 for the LIEP energy assistance program. Applications must be received or postmarked by Jan. 31.

Eligibility is based on income, household size and whether the household is responsible for paying its heating bill. To be eligible, income must be at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty guideline for the household size, according to DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling

Applications for the LIEP program are available online at www.wvinroads.org, or by visiting local DHHR offices, community action agencies and senior centers operated by any area Agency on Aging.

A number of other resources also are available for families who are dealing with high heating costs. For example, the federally based Weatherization Assistance Program can help with the education of residential energy burdens on low-income Americans, according to the office of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Weatherization saves each family, on average, $437 in heating and cooling costs every year at current prices.

Families also can save money on their energy bills by taking such simple steps as signing up for a budget billing utility program. By utilizing a budget billing program — through gas or electricity — homeowners can help to moderate higher winter heating bills. Such budget billing options help to spread the high cost of winter heating over a period of several months, and helps to lower peak winter heating costs.

We know that keeping one’s home warm during the cooler months of winter can be difficult for some. And the challenge is even greater for those families who are on a fixed income.

That’s why programs such as LIEP serve as a critical lifeline for many in our region. Those families who need assistance, and are eligible to participate in the LIEP program, should take note of the Jan. 21 starting date for applications.

 

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