Heating assistance program sees no increase in enrollment

Amelia Holliday Staff Reporter

December 11, 2013

HAZARD—Amid job cuts and mass layoffs, one regional program dedicated to helping people in financial straits keep warm in the winter months has actually not seen an increase in participants in the program this season.

“Even with the layoffs … we ran numbers to see where we were at compared to last year and we’re actually right there with last year at this time,” said Jim Perry, program director for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP ) through LKLP.

LIHEAP works on an income-based enrollment, Perry said. For example, a household of four making $2,552 or less a month would be eligible.

“We have a sheet printed out that is posted in all the (LKLP) offices. Our sheet shows anywhere from only one in the household all the way up to eight, and after eight you would add like $436 for each additional family member,” Perry said.

Perry explained that the program provides two components for assistance for paying heating bills, the first being the subsidy portion, which started pre-certification for the elderly and the disabled in October and will continue to register those in need through Dec. 19.

“The subsidy is basically kind of like it says, it subsidizes their heating, whether it be coal, wood, electric, whatever they get,” Perry explained. “For example, they may only get a half a ton of coal (per month). It’s sort of a fraction of what they need. It’s more of a Band-Aid … a really small Band-Aid.”

Perry said that as of last month, 1,173 participants in Perry County were enrolled in the subsidy portion of the program, though he expects more will enroll as the deadline approaches.

The second component is the crisis portion, Perry said, which is made to help those in dire need of assistance.

“In crisis, it’s like a bigger Band-Aid. You just get more,” Perry said, adding that registration for the crisis portion does not start until January. “But, in crisis, you’re also supposed to be within four days of being out of whatever you use, whether it be running low on propane, coal, kerosene, whatever.”

Perry said he can’t explain exactly why registration and enrollment numbers for the program are not up during one of the toughest economic times this region has faced, even after he has confirmed that new families have been enrolled this year.

“Some people still may not know about it, or they may be too proud to ask for help,” he said. “And then, when you’re dealing with elderly, over a year’s period of time, you have a lot of people deceased.”

Perry added that many people may have moved away from the area in search of employment, leading to a lack of an increase this year.

“I think it’s sort of like a revolving door, you’ll have a pick-up and then you’ll also have a reason that you lose people,” he said.