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Thursday, November 15, 2012 - 11:29am

Groups Expect Less Home Heating Aid

Updated: 2 years ago.
Georgia got almost $62 million home heating assistance funds last year from the federal government. The president’s proposed budget gives the state just under $50 million this year. The program opens first for the elderly in November, then to other low-income residents in December. (Photo Courtesy of Kristin Andrus via Flickr.)

As overnight lows dip back into the 30s across parts of Georgia this week, low-income seniors can get some help paying their heating bill. But federal budget woes mean less help is available – and some poor Georgians may be literally left in the cold.

Federal home heating assistance becomes available to seniors and the homebound November 1, then it opens to other low-income residents in December. But with the looming fiscal cliff and the federal government operating only on a stop-gap budget, money for the program, known as LIHEAP, is limited.

Community Action for Improvement based in LaGrange is getting about $624,000 initially this year, according to executive director Jerome Anderson. That may only cover the elderly with nothing left for other poor residents.

Anderson said seniors depend on the help, no matter the weather.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a colder winter or a less-cold [one],” he said. It is the anticipation of that $310 or $350 payment that they can basically save [their money] and use toward something else.”

Overall, Georgia received almost $62 million for home heating assistance last year. The president has proposed slightly less than $50 million this year.

In some areas, funding will not last until the program opens for the broader low-income population. Heart of Georgia Community Action Council’s Nancy Smith said that will be the case for her Eastman-based agency, which serves 9 counties. She expects a small of amount of funding to remain for the Warner Robins-based Middle Georgia Community Action Agency, where she is also executive director.

“We are expecting that when we exhaust our funds, we will have a tremendous outcry from the general low-income population, most of whom depend on this to help them with their heating bill,” Smith said.

In recent years, the heating assistance program has helped about a quarter of the million or so eligible Georgians.

A complete list of agencies that distribute LIHEAP funds is available here.

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