MT. VERNON — Help is available for people who need heating assistance, and additional help was released last week for those who use propane.
“We still have regular (low income home energy assistance program) funds available, and now we have more to help propane customers,” said Kim Rutherford of Crosswalk Community Action Agency. “We have lots of people who still need help and funds are available.”
Last week, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which receives the LIHEAP funds for the state, increased the benefit amount for each eligible household using propane by $1,000.
“Due to the propane shortage and high prices, the state asked the federal government to release the rest of the program money,” Rutherford explained. “We don’t know yet how much our agency will get.”
The $1,000 additional funds is for propane customers only, Rutherford stressed.
“I know people are talking about how high the cost of fuel oil is, but this is for propane only,” she said. “Anyone who is approved for a direct vendor payment since September through last Friday will get a supplemental payment of $1,000. That will be taken care of in Springfield. Springfield will send a register to all the agencies who administer LIHEAP with a list of who those people are and we can make pledges to the propane companies if people need deliveries at this moment.”
Rutherford said there are people who are making applications for assistance who use propane at this time.
“They are making applications now and are at or below 20 percent,” Rutherford said. “They can get the DVP, emergency money ... and additional money based on their income, household size and type of heat. ... The new people to the program are getting the $1,000.”
Rutherford said, for example, if a household was eligible to receive $325 in energy assistance and they use propane to heat, they will be eligible for $1,325 in assistance. In addition, anyone who qualifies for emergency assistance who uses propane will not have to pay the $75 Good Faith Effort fee.
However, the last-minute help with propane costs doesn’t come easy. Rutherford said she is asking people who apply for assistance to be patient.
“We have to contact Springfield by e-mail, then we have to wait for them to call us back for the approval,” Rutherford said. “It’s not just approved immediately. Things are flowing better than they were Monday, but we ask that people be patient.”
Rutherford said the help couldn’t have come at a better time for many people.
“We’ve had people who have already used everything they can get from us,” Rutherford said. “They used it in November and now they are out of propane. For those people, this is a blessing. I had an older lady in the office yesterday, who started crying when I told her we could help, she was totally out of propane.”
The winter heating assistance program through LIHEAP started in September 2013, and will run through May or until funds are depleted. The program provides financial assistance to eligible households to help pay a portion of their winter heating bills.
The first step in receiving energy assistance is to visit a local outreach site and make an appointment so an application can be made at a later date. Appointments can be made in Jefferson County at the Illinois Department of Human Services office at 333 Potomac Blvd., Mt. Vernon.
Eligibility is based on gross income for the 30 days prior to the date of application. Income guidelines are $1,436 for a one person household; $1,939 for a two person household; $2,441 for a three person household; and $2,944 for four person households. In addition, those applying must be the customer of record for the utility company.
Additional information about the program is available by calling 937-3581.