Local agency expects hundreds of home heating aid applications

October 21, 2004|HERB BROCK

For most of her working life, Isabell Andrews helped take care of the households of many Danville families. Now, at 88 years of age, Andrews is hoping to get a little help with her own household.

The help comes in the form of the Home Energy Assistance Program, a federal program that is administered locally by Bluegrass Community Action Agency and provides subsidies to low-income people to help them cover their home heating expenses.

Andrews has received a subsidy from the program the last few years and will be applying for a new subsidy when the community action agency begins taking applications for 2004-05 HEAP grants Nov. 1 at the agency's office at the Boyle County Courthouse.

"I'm pretty confident I'll get another subsidy. I couldn't do without it," said Andrews, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment at Arnold Towers, a complex operated by the Housing Authority of Danville.


"The program really helps me out a lot, especially in the middle of winter when my heating bill gets high," she said. "When your income is as low as mine, a program like that really is a great help."

Andrews, a single woman her whole life, grew up in the Persimmon Knob area of Boyle County and worked as a nanny and housekeeper for many years for several Danville families as well as holding down jobs as a waitress at the old Gilcher Hotel, a laundry employee and a child care attendant at the Bowlarama. All she has to show for her many years of labor is a $584 monthly check from Social Security.

"My medical expenses are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, and my rent is fairly low, considering I have a wonderful apartment with a nice kitchen, bath and balcony - I love sitting out there - to go with a nice bedroom," said the woman with a ready smile as she showed off her small but comfortable, brightly decorated home. "But my heating bill can be up near $100 a month in the winter, and that can really hit my little budget pretty hard. I have to be also able to pay for my rent and food and to cover my other bills."

Subsidy deducted from bill

Based on her income, Andrews receives a subsidy to help her cover her heating bills. Those bills are included in her monthly rent; since she started taking part in HEAP, the subsidy, which ranges from $25 to $100 a month, has been deducted from the monthly bill.

"When I see my rental statement, I feel good when I see the amount deducted because of the subsidy," she said. "Every month during the winter, I'm reminded of the value of (HEAP). I can see right there on paper, in black and white, how it helps."

Andrews is one of hundreds of Boyle Countians who have been helped through HEAP in recent winters, and Sherry Jo Carey, executive director of the Boyle office of Bluegrass Community Action Agency, expects there to be even more people seeking those subsidies for this winter.

Carey expects the offices of the community action agencies serving Casey, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties to be just as busy as hers handling HEAP applications. "Last year, we processed some 1,000 HEAP applications for Boyle County, and I expect we'll be handling even more this year," said Carey.

"I believe there will be an increase (in applications) because a lot of people still have not shaken off the effects of the economic downturn a couple of years ago, especially those folks who lost their jobs because of factory closings that will be coming to the end of their unemployment or still haven't found good-paying jobs."

Carey said she is not sure if there will be enough money to cover what she predicts will be an increase in applicants. She referred to reports from the nation's capital that there is growing concern among congressmen that the supply of HEAP funds won't match the demand for subsidies and crisis funds. 'We can only hope we get enough funding to cover our people, and as many other people as possible," she said.

Applications taken Nov. 1 to Dec. 10

Applications for whatever funding will be made available to Boyle and neighboring counties will be taken from Nov. 1-Dec. 10.

Applicants must provide more information this year than they have in the past, said Carey. For instance, Social Security recipients must provide more documentation showing they are in the program; pensioners must provide their gross pension amounts; and employed people must show every pay stub for the month of October.

HEAP provides subsidies, ranging from $25 to $100 a month or up to $125 for continuous electric or gas heat. Eligibility is limited to those people whose gross monthly income ranges from a maximum of $854 for a household of one to $2,895 for a household of eight; an additional $292 is applied for each additional family member above eight.

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