Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

November 7, 2012

Low income families could be left out in the cold

By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Journal-Times

Nov. 7, 2012 —     Families in Carter County that receive assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may face the prospect of going without heat and other utilities for certain periods this winter.

    LIHEAP reported this week that it has yet to receive funding for the program, even though the agency began taking applications for utility assistance on Monday.

    The Northeast Kentucky Community Action Agency, the organization that manages LIHEAP, was notified Friday that funding for the program had not been received from the federal government and, therefore, the state would be unable to issue a contract until the money is received.  

    According to David Carroll, Northeast executive director, this creates a difficult situation for those who benefit from the program.

    Carroll stated that once a LIHEAP application is approved, normally a voucher is sent to the heating source provider notifying them of the dollar amount that will be paid toward the customer’s bill.  

    Most heating source providers then apply that credit amount toward the bill and await payment from Northeast.  

    Recent developments, however, may have an impact on whether individuals face a period without a heat source or have their utilities cut off.

    Carroll explains that Northeast had the option of delaying the opening of the LIHEAP program or taking applications with no guarantee that funds would be reimbursed.

    "With literally hundreds of calls being received by our agency from individuals and families already in dire need, we really did not want to delay the opening, but at the same time, we could not place the agency in a liability position to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars without any guarantee of reimbursement,” Carroll said. “Our decision was to open as scheduled, but the one very important change that applicants need to be aware of is that Northeast will not be processing the applications until funding is in place to pay the heating vendors.”

    According to Carroll, applicants facing a cut-off situation should contact their utility provider and make alternate arrangements, because no LIHEAP payments will be made until funding is received by Northeast.  

    This includes all heating source vendors, which include coal, wood, propane and natural gas.

    Carroll stated that when funding is received, all applications and payment vouchers will be processed, but there is currently no timetable in place as to when funds will come in.

    All offices will continue to take applications on the normal schedule. Applicants and vendors may call local offices or the Northeast central office at (606) 286-4443 for updates regarding payments.