The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Thursday, Jan. 31, 2002


Low-income energy assistance available through county office

Applications for this year's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program remain available at the Mercer County Assistance Office.

LIHEAP is a federal program that assists low-income individuals who cannot pay their heating bills. Eligible households can receive assistance through a direct payment to vendors who supply their fuel, or through a crisis component during weather-related emergencies, such as a broken furnace, leaking pipes, or terminated utility service.

Homeowners, renters including those whose rent includes heat, roomers and subsidized housing tenants may be eligible. Any type of fuel may be used.

The program opened for both the cash and crisis components last Nov. 13, with the cash component closing being extended through March 6 and the crisis component closing March 15. Besides household income, grants are based on the type of fuel used and the county of residence.

Executive Director Mark Wasser of the county assistance office urged county residents to apply for the program.

"Last year, some families missed out on the program because they waited too long to apply," Wasser said. "This is unfortunate because in most cases, documentation of income for the previous 30 days is enough to establish eligibility.

"Pennsylvanians who need assistance to heat their home or pay their energy bill are urged to contact their County Assistance Office for an application or more information. Families don't have to be on public assistance or own their own home to qualify."

To be eligible for the program, household income cannot exceed 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines, or for a one-person household, $11,597; two persons, $15,674; three persons, $19,751; four persons, $23,828; five persons, $27,905; or six persons, $31,982. For larger households, the guidelines increase by $4,077 for each additional person.

Last year, 4,055 Mercer County households received $1,061,432 in basic LIHEAP cash grants to offset heating bills. Crisis grants totaling $471,539 were given to 1,819 households with heating emergencies.

Help for families with a heating emergency is available 24 hours a day by calling the county assistance office at (724) 983-5172.

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