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Energy Assistance Program helps with heating bills

By Maria-Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Eligible individuals and families in Georgia struggling to pay their heating bills, may receive help with making ends meet.

The Georgia Department of Human Services' Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program received approximately $41.1 million dollars in federal funds, to aid low-income, elderly and disabled Georgia residents, who are struggling to pay their heating bills, according to Dena Smith, spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Human Services.

"Assistance will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis," said Smith in a prepared statement. "The program will close when funds are exhausted."

According to Smith, local community action agencies are currently administering the available funds to assist qualifying homebound and elderly individuals.

According to the Division of Family and Children Services for the Georgia Department of Human Services, the local agency in Clayton County is the Clayton County Community Services Authority, Inc., 1000 Main St., Forest Park.

The local homebound, and the elderly who are aged 65 and older, can apply at the Clayton County Community Services facility during the month of November, according to the Division.

"There is a great need of people that need assistance with their energy bill, especially in this economic climate," said Smith, during a telephone interview.

Smith said when individuals apply at their local community action agency, they must bring their most recent fuel bill or statement of service from their heating provider. Providing proof of income, for all household members for the last 30 days, is also necessary to determine eligibility, she explained.

"Applicants must all have social security numbers for all household members," said Smith.

The general public, and eligible families, will be able to apply for the program during the month of December, starting Dec. 1, she said. This also includes the homebound and elderly, Smith noted.

Those that qualify may be eligible to receive between $310, and $350, said Smith.

"To participate in the program, the family must meet a yearly income equal to, or less than 60 percent of the state's median income," the Georgia Department of Human Services spokesperson said.

Individuals who are eligible, will be credited the money to their energy account, where their provider will deduct the amount, according to the cost of the monthly bill, until consumed, Smith said.

"Cold weather can be deadly for seniors and other people who may have medical conditions," advised Smith.

For more information about the program, contact the Community Based Programs of the Division of Family and Children Services, in metro Atlanta, at (404) 656-2323, or 1-800-869-1150.