Due to a reduction in funding, Utah's winter energy assistance program for low-income households will start two weeks later than usual, and less money will be available for emergency intervention, according to the program's director.
Susan Larsen, Assistance Payments Administration, said low-income elderly and disabled persons can apply for the Home Energy Assistance Target (HEAT) program Nov. 1. The program opens for all others Nov. 15 and runs through March 31, 1989. Grants will be the same regardless of when the application is made in that time period, provided money hasn't run out.Last year, 41,493 households participated in the program, with an average payment of $190.
The HEAT program uses federal money to provide a one-time payment directly to a utility company or companies to assist low-income families with rising heating costs. The program doesn't pay the cost of winter heating but provides assistance to families that live at or below 125 percent of the poverty level (eligibility for a family of four is $1,214 monthly income). Assistance grant size is based on income, climate, fuel type and household size.
Utah's grant from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides funding for HEAT, has been reduced this year from $11 million to $10 million.
More than $1 million used last year for emergencies has been cut this year, "so we won't have to take the money from the payment matrix," Larsen said. "There's no reduction overall in the payments, but now we'll have minimum funds in crisis intervention (things like repairing furnaces and replacing broken windows). No community contracts will be funded, and there will be little or no carryover. We're putting everything into payments."
To qualify, an applicant must provide identification and Social Security numbers for anyone over 18, proof of income from the month prior to application and verification of payments for medical bills if he or she wants a medical deduction from income. Twenty percent of earned income is disregarded when calculating eligibility. The person also needs to provide a copy of the most recent utility bill(s).
"In terms of what they're used to dealing with to apply for assistance, this is really simple," she said.
The department also administers the winter moratorium program, which protects eligible households from winter utility shut-offs. (Eligible households still have to make utility payments in an amount determined by the department.)
To qualify for that program, applicants must meet one of four criteria: income eligibility, recent loss of employment, recent drop in income or an emergency (usually medical). Last year 174 households participated in the moratorium, and Larsen said no households defaulted on their payments.
Applications are taken by appointment. For information on where to apply, contact the Department of Social Services.