We are halfway through our Low-Income Heat and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) season. Staff in our service centers began taking applications in November for this program which provides financial assistance to low income homes in hopes of preventing service disconnects during the colder months. Appointments in November were exclusive to elderly homebound and disabled individuals. December appointments were open to any low-income households that met income requirements. As of December 17, 2016 staff have processed 1,555 applications for assistance which resulted in $524,250 paid to utility companies. 229 of these applications were for crisis situations, which means utility services were to be disconnected within 5 days of the application. The program will continue until all funds are dispersed, generally around February.
Maintaining heat and electricity during the winter months is critical to the health and safety of those in the household, particularly young children and the elderly. Low-income housing is often not energy efficient, which results in higher than usual energy bills. A large increase in one bill can have a big impact on a low-income household on a fixed income. LIHEAP seeks to alleviate the stress this can cause by providing a one-time payment of either $310 or $350 to households that qualify.
Individuals that apply for LIHEAP assistance are also provided additional services based on need. For example, an elderly individual with service through Georgia Power is assisted in signing up for a senior citizen discount if they are not already receiving it. A mobile home resident that lacks weather stripping may be referred to our Weatherization program for assistance. A low-income family may be informed of our Money Smart program that teaches budgeting and helps build a savings account.
The goal of LIHEAP, along with our other programs, is to help take care of the immediate need in a low-income household while also providing tools and assistance that can improve the situation in the future.