LUMBERTON — Word spreading throughout Robeson County that the Department of Social Services is sitting on federal money available for heating assistance is “absolutely untrue,” according to Anthony Dial, the DSS program administrator who oversees the county’s Low Income Energy Assistance Program.
“There is still plenty of money available for those who are eligible for assistance,” Dial said. “We are accepting applications until March 31st or until there is no more money available.”
Dial said early last week that there is at least $800,000 still available through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, and about $400,000 available through the Crisis Intervention Program, another heating assistance program that helps eligible county residents pay their heating bills. Since Dec. 1, there has been $1,310,844 available for eligible county residents through LIEAP.
Since Dec. 1, heating assistance has been provided to 1,888 households, totaling $425,400, Dial said. The one-time payments, which are paid directly to the household’s energy provider, range from a low of $200 to a maximum of $400.
Dial said that anyone who believes they may be eligible to receive heating assistance should apply. If all of the LIEAP money is not spent by March 31, it must be returned to the federal government, he said.
“We are trying to keep funds in the county,” said Dial. “We want to help as many in need as possible.”
Dial said that American Indians must apply for energy assistance through the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. The tribe is responsible for handling energy and other social services programs for American Indians.
Until Jan. 31, only households where there is an elderly person age 60 and older, or a person receiving Disabled Aging Adult Services through DSS, were eligible to receive heating assistance through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, Dial said. However, through March 31 “any households” with members of any age can apply and receive assistance as long as they meet the financial and other eligibility requirements.
Dial said there are several criteria that households must meet in order to be eligible to receive energy assistance through the program. These include: having at least one U.S. citizen or non-citizen who meets the eligibility requirements; meeting an income test; having financial reserves at or below $2,000; being responsible for paying heating bills; having a valid Social Security number for each household member; having verifiable income, such as a bank account; and having a copy of a household heating bill.
Dial said that to receive assistance through the Crisis Intervention Program the same eligibility requirements as those of the Low Income Energy Assistance Program must be met.
“There also must be a health or life-threatening case for anyone to receive assistance through the Crisis Intervention Program,” Dial said. “The applicant must submit a notice from their energy provider that their heating source is going to be cut off.”