Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program benefits nearly 82,000 Kentucky households

06/17/2016 12:34 PM

FRANKFORT – The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally funded program, administered statewide by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which helps to keep Kentucky families safe and healthy through initiatives that assist families with energy costs.

LIHEAP helps low income families, with a household income that doesn’t exceed 130 percent of the poverty level in managing costs associated with three components: home energy bills; energy crisis, such as when a household is within four days of running out its heat source; weatherization and energy-related minor home repairs.

Roger McCann, Executive Director, of Community Action Kentucky, told members of the Special Subcommittee on Energy on Friday that the goal of the program is to allow low income Kentuckians to maintain their quality of life as they are being hit with costly energy bills during the winter months.

“It’s difficult to cook a meal for your children, or study for a test if you don’t have electricity if your lights are out,” McCann said. “If you’re sick, it’s difficult to heal if you are cold.”

Individuals can apply between November 1 and December 9 for the upcoming winter season. All households that apply and are determined eligible during the period will receive assistance as long as funds are available.

Benefit amounts will be designed so that the highest level of assistance will be provided to households with the lowest incomes, relative to federal poverty guidelines, and the highest heating season energy costs.

Once eligibility is established, payment goes directly to the household’s energy provider.

The FY 2017 funding will be based upon an estimation of $30 million.McCann says that last winter, the program benefited nearly 82,000 households.

“This year, we had 81,941 households across the state receive a subsidy benefit,” McCaan said. “This year we noticed that we had a slower rate of spend in LIHEAP, and we attribute that partially to we had a mild winter.”

Cathy Hinko, of the Metropolitian Housing Coalition expressed concern that the way the state administers the LIHEAP program crisis component which puts the low income population in Louisville who have electric meters, in a difficult situation when it comes to showing the need for assistance.

“I get a bill in mid-February for energy usage from January 15th to February 15th, I get that bill February 18th, I have to wait until that bill is in default,” Hinko said. “We force people in cities with meters to actually go into a default and potentially hurt their credit before they can ask for crisis.”

Cabinet officials agreed to continue discussions with Hinkle and report to the committee about progress in looking at ways to make the system more friendly towards low income urban residents.

About Don Weber

Don Weber joined cn|2 when it launched back in May 2010 and soon became a reporter for Pure Politics. He is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and has spent many years covering everything from politics to sports. Don says he loves meeting new people everyday as part of his job and also enjoys the fact that no two days are the same when he comes to work. Don Weber can be reached at donald.weber@twcnews.com.

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