An annual program aimed at keeping low-income households warm through the winter will kick off Friday.
The Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) provides for a one-time vendor payment to help eligible households pay their heating bills. The Sampson County Department of Social Services will begin taking applications for LIEAP this Friday, Dec. 1, at the main office located at 360 County Complex Road, Suite 100, Clinton.
To be eligible for funding, households must meet requirements that include: an income test; be responsible for its heating bills; cannot have resources in excess of $2,250; and must include a U.S. citizen or an eligible alien.
There is no automatic eligibility and all interested households must make an application. Priority is given to households containing at least one disabled person (person receives Social Security Disability, SSI, or VA Disability) that is also receiving services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services, or to a household in which at least one member is age 60 and older.
Only those priority type households that meet all other eligibility requirements will be eligible from Dec. 1 through Dec. 29. Any household may be potentially eligible starting Jan. 2. Applications will be taken through March 29, 2018, or until funding is exhausted.
Applications will also be taken for one day each from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the following sites: Garland Senior Center on Dec. 4; Harrells Nutrition Site on Dec. 5; and Roseboro Nutrition Site on Dec. 6.
Thousands of families have taken advantage of the opportunity over the years.
DSS employee Monica Price, who is coordinating the program, said this year’s allocation — $339,889 — is more than the county received for the program last year. Funding is limited, and all potentially eligible households may not be approved. At a minimum, applicants should have the name of the household’s heating vendor and the account number when applying.
“In December, we concentrate on our citizens who are 60-plus,” Price said. “Any household can potentially benefit from the end of December through the end of March, as long as funds are available.”
Price said it is tough to gauge the potential demand leading up to the program, and often times it is fittingly weather-dependent.
Last year, Sampson was allocated $325,100 in funding designated for LIEAP, which assisted 1,515 families. In 2015-16, the LIEAP amount for Sampson was $323,700, which assisted 1,305 families. There was around $30,000 remaining that year. However, there is not usually funding remaining. In fact, in years past, the allocation has been much higher and funding still evaporated quickly and in some cases prompted reinforcements from the state.
More than 3,400 households received LIEAP checks in Sampson in 2010-11, 2,950 of which were pre-approved Food and Nutrition Services households who were automatically eligible. Automatic eligibility was taken away the next year, which saw a lowered allocation.
In 2011-12, the total allocation from the state was $153,000, a significant drop from the $716,620 distributed for utilities assistance at the end of 2010. The county’s total allocation of $208,930 in 2012-13 led to 882 households receiving assistance. In 2013-14, the allocation of $445,086 funded well in excess of 1,000 households and in 2014-15, there was $441,430 received that again assisted well over 1,000 households.
Those with questions can direct them to Monica Price at Sampson County Department of Social Services, at 910-592-7131 ext. 3239.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.