With the official start of winter still weeks away, federal funds to help the poor pay heating bills have already been exhausted across the state.
Usually, the money helps thousands of poor Georgians, but Congress has not funded the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Applications opened Nov. 1 for residents at least 65 years old. The programs were slated to open to younger people Thursday.
But since funds have run out, the community service agencies around the state who manage the federal assistance are instead suspending programs or starting waiting lists.
In Augusta, CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority created a waiting list instead of accepting applications for aid. The money is also gone in the Athens and Savannah areas.
The Macon Telegraph reported the Macon-Bibb County Economic Opportunity Council has delayed its program. Executive Director Jimmie Samuel said the EOC so far has received about $440,000 for the program, and the funds were distributed in November.
Statewide, Georgia has received $18 million for the heating assistance program under the continuing resolution Congress passed for the federal budget.
Fulton-Atlanta Community Action Authority President Joyce Dorsey told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that more than twice as many senior citizens asked for assistance this year. Dorsey said about 4,700 seniors asked for assistance this year compared to 2,000 in 2010.
Dorsey said the large number of requests have depleted $1.8 million in federal funds before the general public could even ask for help.
Contributors: GPB's Joshua Stewart contributed to this report.