1,500 helped with LIHEAP for home heat

Friday, May 15, 2009

Marshall County residents in 587 homes, perhaps 1,500 people, were helped by an expanded federal program that paid heating bills this past winter, according to a leader of the agency making emergency payments.

However, as its name implies, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) doesn't just pay heating bills. It's also for electric bills for residents' air conditioning units, LIHEAP Director Cathy Hayes says from her office in Fayetteville.

She works for the South Central Human Resources Agency that has offices in Lewisburg at 1572 Old Columbia Road.

In December, Gov. Phil Bredesen announced the state was making funds available to LIHEAP on a matching basis. For every dollar raised locally, the state would pay $2 it received in federal money to immediately help pay winter heating bills.

Responses from churches, the Lewisburg City Council, Marshall County Commission, Duck River Electric Co-op and the Lewisburg Electric Department exceeded the anticipated allocation for Marshall County, Hayes said.

Slightly more than $172,000 in LIHEAP money was spent by the agency to help pay heating bills, she said. However, that's a combination of emergency funds, money leveraged through the special offer from the state, local contributions, and the rgular LIHEAP allocation.

Help with electric bills is still available, she said, noting that while the money won't be issued immediately, as with winter emergency heating assistance, the payments might arrive in time to pay power bills for air conditioners.

"People still need to come in, but they won't be paid immediately," Hayes said. "The agency will be paying through June."

Therefore, six weeks are left for aplicants to file with the agency, she said.

"Anyone drawing unemployment will probably be eligible," Hayes said. "That's the word we need to get out because a lot of people are getting laid off and we look at how much more unemployment benefits they have for the rest of the year.

"Even if they're working part time and have some unemployment for the household, then they need to come in with their unemployment check stub or print out," she said, explaining that the stub will show how much an individual might have left to draw from their unemployment insurance benefits.