The News of Cumberland County – Legislators from New Jersey’s Third District are alerting low-income residents that help is available to offset heating costs.
“We want residents to know that there may be programs that can help them if they are struggling to pay their heating bills,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “Based on income level, one or more of these programs can provide vital assistance during the cold winter months.”
The Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps very low-income residents with their home heating and cooling bills, and in some cases can provide emergency heating system services and urgent fuel assistance.
To be eligible for LIHEAP benefits, residents must be responsible for their home heating or cooling costs, either directly or included in their rent. They should have a gross annual income of no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level — approximately $29,420 for a family of two. The amount of the LIHEAP heating benefit is determined by income, household size, fuel type and heating region.
The Universal Service Fund (USF) lowers the amount qualified residents have to pay for their heating and cooling needs. The program is available for residents with a gross household income no more than 175 percent of the federal poverty level, or approximately $25,743 for a family of two.
To be eligible for USF assistance, a household must pay more than 3 percent of its annual income for electric and more than 3 percent for natural gas. If a household has electric heat, it must spend more than 6 percent of its annual income on electricity to be eligible for USF assistance.
The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is available to assist elderly, handicapped and low-income persons with weatherizing their homes, improving the efficiency of their heating systems and conserving energy. The program can provide tools and supplies such as insulation, weather stripping and caulking, as well as assistance to repair or replace windows, furnaces or boilers and heat exchange or distribution systems.
“Low-income residents and seniors should know that they may be eligible for assistance and do not have to risk their health and safety by living in a home with little or no heat,” said Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli. “Weatherizing homes can help ensure that the money used on heat actually stays within the home instead of being wasted through leaking or inefficient areas of the house.”
The TRUE (Temporary Relief for Utility Expenses) Program provides one-time grant assistance to low- and middle-income residents. The maximum grant is $750 for electric and $750 for gas service, depending on the balance owed.
In order to receive a TRUE Program grant, residents must not have been eligible for or received a payment from LIHEAP or the USF program in the past year, must meet the household income requirements and must be past due on their currently connected electric or gas account. Qualified applicants must also have made at least four payments of $25 or more in the past six months, and three of those payments must have been made at least 30 days before the application.
“Residents that are struggling to pay their bills should contact the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs or a local community organization,” said Assemblywoman Celeste Riley. “There are several agencies in the Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester county area that may be able to assist with calculating income eligibility and help with the application process.”
The application period for LIHEAP and the Universal Service Fund program opened on Nov. 1 and will continue until April 30, 2012.
For more information about LIHEAP, Universal Service Fund or Weatherization Assistance programs, contact the NJ Department of Community Affairs at (609) 633-2378.
For more information regarding TRUE Grant assistance, please visit www.ahanjtrue.com/application.html.
The following local agencies are available to assist Cumberland County residents with the application process for LIHEAP and USF program assistance:
Gateway Community Action Partnership, 110 Cohansey St. in Bridgeton, (856) 451-2966, ext. 6720
Bethel Development Corp., 113 S. 5th St., P.O. Box 1278, in Millville, (856) 327-9092
Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe, 18 E. Commerce St., P.O. Box 544, in Bridgeton, (856) 327-9092