DSS offers help with energy bills as winter weather nears

The Carteret County Department of Social Services is making funds available to assist qualifying families with utility bills through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. (Cheryl Burke photo)

BEAUFORT — With winter weather approaching, some Carteret County residents struggling with utility bills will receive much-needed help thanks to the Low Income Energy Assistance Program.

According to County Department of Social Services Director Clint Lewis, the state received an additional $25 million in LIEAP funding as a result of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which was approved earlier this year to assist agencies with costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

“A portion of the CARES Act funds will be used for LIEAP to issue automatic payments to a target population that received a LIEAP payment in 2019-20,” Mr. Lewis said.

He added that 352 county residents have been identified for the special funding, known as Pandemic LIEAP. Those who qualify will receive $300, $400 or $500 based on need. The one-time automatic payments will be sent directly to vendors.

To qualify, a household must have persons aged 60 or older or be a household with disabled individuals receiving Division of Aging and Adult Services, be receiving food stamps and received LIEAP funding during the 2019-20 season.

Recipients will be informed that an automated payment will be issued, therefore they do not need to apply for regular LIEAP funds until the 2021-22 season. The Pandemic LIEAP funding will serve as their energy assistance allotment for the year.

Households not included in the Pandemic LIEAP target population will be able to apply during the regular LIEAP time period, Tuesday, Dec. 1 through Wednesday, March 31, 2021, or until funds are exhausted.

Priority in eligibility is given from Dec. 1 through Thursday, Dec. 31 to disabled persons receiving services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services or households containing a person 60 years of age or older.

Applications for all households will be taken from Monday, Jan. 4 through Wednesday, March 31, or until funds are exhausted.

According to DSS Food and Nutrition Services and LIEAP Supervisor Kelly Styron, last year 857 residents applied for LIEAP assistance, with 809 of those receiving funds.

“The amount ranged from $300 to $500, as it will again this year,” Ms. Styron said.

In order to qualify for the regular LIEAP, families must meet the following criteria:

  • Household must meet an income test.
  • Household cannot have other resources of more than $2,250.
  • Household must be responsible for its heating bills.
  • The household must include a U.S citizen or an eligible alien.

Those wanting to apply for regular LIEAP funds can do one of the following:

  • Print an application from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services website and submit it to County DSS by mail, fax, email or drop it off at the office in Beaufort or at the County Health Department in Morehead City.
  • Pick up an application from either county department.
  • Call DSS to complete a telephone interview at 252-728-3181.
  • Submit an online LIEAP application through EPASS.nc.gov beginning in January.

Information needed to apply includes:

  • Information about your household’s income. Any previous month’s wage stubs.
  • Information about your household’s savings or checking accounts.
  • Information about your household’s property, stocks, bonds and other assets.
  • Name, date of birth and social security number of each household member.
  • Information about your household’s primary heating source.

 

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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