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Assistance program cooling Virginians

The State of Virginia is offering help to area residents trying to cope with the extreme temperatures of the summer days, as well as providing safety from severe heat emergencies.
The Cooling Assistance program, which runs June 15 to August 15, requires that a household include either a child under the age of six, a person over the age of 60 or a disabled individual.
Applicants must complete a one-page application form, including questions regarding housing status, family needs, citizenship status and the number of persons living in the household.
Those persons who need assistance filling out the form will be given extra aid by the Department of Social Services.
"If people can’t fill out their own application for whatever reason, we will do it for them if they come in," said Mary Lou Lorton of the Department of Social Services. "Some folks will call in and say they can’t write, read or they have bad arthritis. So we send them the application and they sign it on the back. They mail it back to us blank and we call them on the phone and complete the application. In the severest of cases, we can come out to them as well. We don’t do that as much. If they can’t get to us, we can get to them."
If you meet all of the criteria and your application is approved, there are several different types of assistance that can be given. These include purchase or replacement of an air conditioner, repair to a central air conditioning unit or heat pump, payment of an electric utility security deposit or payment of an electric bill to help operate any related cooling equipment. The maximum amount offered on electricity bills is $100.
The program is being offered in conjunction with the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program block grant and has been in existence since 1979. According to the Department of Social Services Website, over 140,000 different households have been helped every year. Last summer, the program helped 70,000 households.
Residents can also apply for the Fuel Assistance program from Oct.12 to Nov. 12. The program helps with the heating of homes during the cold months.
Those interested in either of these programs can apply via the Virginia Department of Social Services website at www.dss.virginia.gov/benefit/ea/cooling/ or by calling them at 980-7995.

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