“Many people are coming in for emergency assistance, but we are afraid there are many others who qualify for assistance that don’t usually come to our office for help,” said Van Strickland, the department’s economic and family services administrator. “I have no idea how many people may be eligible, but I think there may be a lot of senior citizens and recently laid off workers that may qualify for this assistance.”
The money is available through the federal government’s Crisis Intervention Program. Strickland said that Robeson County has been allotted $837,153 this fiscal year, and as of the end of November only $204,339 of the federal funds had been spent.
Strickland said that since July, the number of new heating assistance applications being approved has increased.
“We’re going to see this increase continue,” she added. “We’re in a recession, but that doesn’t stop the temperature from dropping.”
According to Strickland, up to $600 can be used to help provide heating or cooling assistance to a family during a single 12-month period.
“For instance,” she said, “if someone’s heating bill is $300, they can use $300 for heating and if necessary still use $300 later in the year for cooling.”
To be eligible for assistance, an applicant must be a Robeson County resident who has received a utility cut-off notice. If an applicant uses gas or kerosene as a heating source, it is also possible that person may be eligible to have that bill paid.
Verification of identification, household income, expenses paid during the month, and a cut-off notice or documentation that a heating source will be disconnected must be presented at the time an application is filed. Applications are now being taken weekdays at the Department of Social Services, 435 Caton Road, from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. No appointment is necessary.
For information, call the DSS energy section at (910) 608-2054 or (910) 737-4033. Questions can also be answered by Gene Downing, DSS energy supervisor, at (910) 671-3571.