theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

Local News

July 8, 2014

Energy assistance program offered to low income residents

Ada — Every summer, Oklahoma teams up with the federal government to help families who are having trouble paying their energy bills.

Families can apply for assistance from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is administered through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. LIHEAP’s summer cooling program provides funds to help low-income households that are extremely vulnerable to heat-related stress.

The federal government has earmarked about $17 million for this year’s summer cooling program, which helps families pay their energy bills or reimburses them for buying fans and other cooling equipment. DHS offices across the state, including the Pontotoc County office, will begin accepting applications for cooling assistance today.

The agency will process applications on a first-come, first-served basis as long as the money is available, said social services specialist supervisor Mary Bennett.

“Once it runs out throughout the state, it runs out, and they can tell us at any time,” she said in a July 2 interview. “So they need to get in here and get the applications turned in. The sooner, the better.”

Bennett said the local DHS office processed about 733 applications for summer cooling assistance in 2013, and about 90 percent of those requests were approved.

That number did not include homes that already receive public assistance through DHS. Many of those households were automatically authorized for summer cooling assistance, so they did not need to apply.

Bennett said the local DHS office has already notified 515 households that they will qualify for summer cooling assistance this year, but she could not predict how many people would apply for assistance.

Some households that currently receive DHS benefits may be eligible for summer cooling assistance. DHS sent those households pre-printed applications on June 21.

“These applications can be returned to our office immediately for determination of eligibility,” Bennett said.

Applicants must provide proof of their identity, a current electric bill and proof of income for everyone in the household over the past 30 days.

The amount of assistance depends on the size of the household, net income and other factors. A one-person household would be eligible for a one-time payment of $200, which would be paid directly to the utility company, while a household with two or more people could receive $250.

The program also helps people purchase cooling equipment, such as fans or window air conditioning units, or repair existing equipment. If the applicant can verify the expense, DHS will provide a $150 reimbursement, which will be applied to an Oklahoma Debit MasterCard.

If DHS approves an application and pays the supplier, the agency will send the household notice of the payment.

Bennett said Native American households may apply for cooling assistance from either DHS or the tribe in their service area, but they cannot seek help from both programs.

“That is because DHS and the tribe both receive the same federal funding,” she said. “It’s like double dipping if you do.”

For more information, call the local DHS office at 2320 Arlington, Suite B, or call 310-7050. Information and application forms are also available at the DHS website, www.okdhs.org.

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