Frigid Temps Amplify Need for Heating Help

Jan 9, 2014

As Kentucky emerges from its most brutal cold snap in years, the window opens for low-income families to apply for crisis home-energy assistance.

The cold snap that gripped Kentucky this week amplifies the troubles many families across Kentucky face with paying their winter heating bills. The crisis home-energy assistance program begins Monday.
The cold snap that gripped Kentucky this week amplifies the troubles many families across Kentucky face with paying their winter heating bills. The crisis home-energy assistance program begins Monday.
Credit Greg Stotelmyer

Monday is the first day those who need help paying their heating bills can sign up for the crisis phase of the federal program, commonly known as LIHEAP.

Michael Moynahan is the energy program director for Community Action Kentucky, the agency that oversees the program.

"They have to be facing an emergency situation where they've either received a disconnect from their utility company or they have run out of their bulk fuel," he explains.

Moynahan says the crisis assistance, which provides up to $400, is sent directly to the utility company or bulk fuel vendor. He says the average assistance amount is about $250.

Peggy Sanchez, a single mom of five from Paris, says the assistance from Community Action will help her family stay in the home they rent.

"Oh my gosh, without the assistance I wouldn't be able to pay my gas bills and we would be without heat and water," she says.

To be eligible, family income must be at 130 percent of the federal poverty level or below. For a family of four that's roughly $2,500 a month before taxes.

Moynahan says LIHEAP crisis funding dropped by about 3.5 percent this year. Combine that with the frigid start to January and he expects the funds to be gone before the program ends March 31.

"And so it's never enough to cover everyone that needs the program," he says. "And that's another issue with the crisis is it's based on a first-come, first-serve policy.

"So, we encourage anyone who is eligible for it and who's facing that disconnect status to apply as early as they can."

Moynahan expects the crisis-heating program will get around 100,000 Kentucky families through a tough patch this winter.

For more information, call 1-800-456-3452.