By TRAVIS HANDY
Applications for fuel assistance from the Virginia Department of Social Services’ (VDSS) Energy Assistance Program (EAP) are being accepted now through Friday, Nov. 9. Families and individuals are advised they must apply through their local department of social services. Households will receive letters indicating the benefits they will receive during December.
“With cooler temperatures predicted this winter, many Virginians will be facing higher heating costs,” said VDSS Commissioner Martin D. Brown. “Fuel Assistance can help reduce home heating costs by supplementing a portion of annual heating expenses. Many of our most vulnerable citizens are already struggling financially, so we’re encouraging them to submit an application, as soon as possible, to their local department of social services.”
VDSS says to qualify for assistance, the maximum gross income for a one-person household cannot exceed $1,211. The maximum gross monthly income for a household of four is $2,498. The amount disbursed for assistance depends on the number of people living in the home, with greater benefits for larger households.
“The plan is to help people through the coldest months of winter, which are January, February and March,” said Mary Lorton, energy assistance program coordinator for Pulaski County DSS. She explained many residents who receive fuel or energy assistance are the elderly, those who can’t work, or are disabled, or simply unemployed. The need goes up every year.
Lorton also said there is a crisis program in place for those who did not get fuel assistance or have already found themselves in need of assistance again. Crisis fuel assistance is provided to those who heat with gas or electricity and are facing a disconnect, those within 30 gallons of running out of oil or kerosene, and those who heat with wood and have less than a seven-day supply.
According to Lorton, from Nov. 1 – March 15, a separate crisis program works to repair or replace faulty, non-working heating equipment. People experiencing problems with their primary heating equipment may fill out a crisis application and DSS will help repair or replace equipment, depending on eligibility. The crisis program will also pay connection deposits for recipients one time per fuel type.
According to VDSS, the program assists people with various types of energy sources, including electricity, natural and liquid propane gas, oil, kerosene, coal and wood.
VDSS’ EAP is funded by the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) block grant, which provides funds to states to assist low-income households in meeting their home energy needs.
Last year, nearly 148,000 Virginia households received assistance. Pulaski County provided 1,900 households with assistance last year.
For more information on the EAP visit www.dss.virginia.gov/benefit/ea/index.cgi to screen for services or apply online at https://commonhelp.virginia.gov/access.