Sunday, Dec 11, 2016
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Energy

Assistance available for costs of cooling

With more days of extreme heat possible this summer, assistance with air conditioning and utility costs is available for low and moderate-income families.

About $25 million is available statewide as part of the federally funded Home Energy Assistance Program Summer Crisis Program, a huge increase from the $7 million available for assistance last summer. The program's time frame has been extended; it normally begins July 1, but it started June 1 this year, the Ohio Department of Development said.

A mild winter last year reduced the need for the Winter Crisis Program, allowing some of those funds to be used in the summer, according to the department.

The program is popular, said Brian Taylor, a basic needs specialist with WSOS, a nonprofit community action agency serving Wood, Seneca, Ottawa, and Sandusky counties.

"If people would like an appointment, they need to call us as soon as possible," Mr. Taylor said. The agency has assisted 374 households so far this year; it helped 513 families last summer.

Households that qualify can receive one-time payment assistance of up to $250; that can include a window-unit air conditioner or help with paying an electric bill. The program runs through Aug. 31.

In Lucas County, 2,362 families have received assistance, compared with 1,707 last year, said Tomeka Rushing, HEAP coordinator at the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo.

Ms. Rushing said she believes the increasing number of people seeking the aid is because of poverty in Lucas County and the summer's brutal heat. Toledo had three 100-degree days this month and broke a number of heat-related records.

For the first time ever, the agency also has two satellite locations -- at the Zablocki Senior Center in North Toledo and the East Toledo Family Center -- where people can make an appointment to seek assistance.

To receive assistance residents must:

Have a member of the household who is at least 60 years old

Provide documentation of medical need or

Have a disconnect notice from a utility company

Rita Anderson, who was with her sister at the EOPA office Monday afternoon to apply for assistance, said she had used the program before and encouraged others to apply if they are in need. "Don't just sit and suffer," she said.

Last year, more than 40,000 Ohio families were assisted through the HEAP Summer Crisis Program.

In Lucas County, anyone seeking such assistance should call 1-866-504-7392 and leave a message to schedule an appointment. Residents of Wood, Seneca, Ottawa, and Sandusky counties should call 888-441-4327 or 419-334-5126.

Contact Kate Giammarise at: kgiammarise@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.

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