Sandusky County residents get extra help with heating bills
The Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program (EHEAP), provided by WSOS Community Action Commission, Inc. provides a one-time assistance per season to income-eligible families to keep heat in their homes. For residents living in Sandusky County, there is additional help through the county's Department of Job and Family Services' Prevention, Retention, and Contingency (PRC) fund.
While EHEAP will pay up to $175 to maintain or reconnect gas and electric service, and up to $450 in bulk fuel for one household, PRC can pay up to $1,000 or pay the heating bill in full, whichever payment is lower. PRC will provide assistance only after EHEAP/HEAP eligibility has been determined, and the assistance is available only to those households with a minor child. It is available from November 1 until March 31, 2006, or until $100,000 has been expended, whichever comes first.
EHEAP assistance is provided to an applicant once per heating season and allows for the utility to be reconnected or provides assistance for a minimum of bulk fuel as allowed by the supplier. It will not pay for the tank to be filled completely.
According to the Ohio Department of Development, Office of Energy Efficiency, the anticipated average cost of natural gas prices in Ohio will see a 48 percent increase while propane will increase by 30 percent, electric will increase by 5 percent increase and those who use fuel oil will see a 32 percent increase.
During the first month of the program, while WSOS served slightly more households - 431 versus 423 in 2004 - it expended $93,752 compared to $72,359 for the same time period
"Our staff has been busy," said Basic Needs Specialist Sue Dyer. "We have been able to schedule all participants that have contacted us."
In October, Gov. Bob Taft authorized the use of $75 million from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) fund to help needy families pay their heating bills. These funds are in addition to that released by the federal government. The governor also increased the eligibility guidelines for use of these funds. Families who fall under 175 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines will be able to access these funds. Until now, it was 150 percent of the poverty guideline. WSOS recently applied for some of those funds to increase staff time in anticipation of assisting more families this year.
Assistance with heating bills comes in two forms - EHEAP and regular HEAP.
Regular HEAP also provides a one-time per heating season assistance with paying heating bills. Applicants must file their applications themselves. WSOS has applications available and can assist applicants with the forms. Both EHEAP and HEAP operate until March 31.
Appointments are required for EHEAP applicants. To make an appointment for EHEAP help, in Wood County call 419-353-7407; in Ottawa County, call 419-734-2652; in Seneca County - Fostoria - call 419-435-4357 or in Tiffin area, call 419-447-0084; or in Sandusky County, call 419-334-5126.