“The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency (UCHRA) has received an additional $2.3 million in Low-Income Energy Assistance funding for low-income consumers,” Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director, announced.
The Tennessee Department of Human Services has informed UCHRA that funding for its Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been increased to $3,772,800, an increase of $2.3 million above its original allocation for the year that ends June 30, 2009. “The increase in LIHEAP funds allows UCHRA to serve almost 9,000 households in the 14-county area,” explained Bennett.
In DeKalb County, approximately 544 households will be served expending $176,882. Currently, UCHRA has funding available to approve all eligible applications that have been received in their offices. Bennett encouraged individuals who meet program guidelines to apply for funding this year, even if they have not previously been served. The increased funding is the result of actions taken by Congress to assist low-income families during the current economic crisis. UCHRA Board Chairman Mike Foster, County Mayor of DeKalb County, said “the UCHRA Board is pleased with this new allocation to serve all those eligible for assistance during these difficult times.”
The LIHEAP program provides financial energy assistance to eligible low-income households one time during the year. To qualify for assistance, a household’s income must not exceed 125% of the US poverty level. For example, a family of four can earn a monthly household income of up to $2,208.33. Priority for service is based upon a point system. Points are awarded based upon each household’s percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines (125% maximum), and points are awarded for the percent of a household’s income used for home energy costs.
“Households with vulnerable household members receive additional points for the following: elderly member (60+), disabled member, children less than 6 years of age, member referred by Adult Protective Services, and six or more individuals. First priority for service is given to households with the highest total points, and UCHRA works down the list until all available funds are spent. Assistance benefit levels (based on priority points) range from a one-time payment of $300 to $375 made payable to the household’s designated vendor and can be used for electricity, natural gas, LP gas, kerosene, wood, or coal,” Lee Webb, UCHRA Community Services Director, stated.
Emphasis is being placed on recruiting income-eligible families with children under the age of 6 to apply for LIHEAP assistance. Even though the point system appears to have favored elderly individuals, this year elderly households as well as families with young children will receive assistance. The point system will allow 15 points for elderly individuals (60+), 15 points for individuals with disabilities, and 15 points for families with children. “Everyone who meets the income eligibility criteria should receive assistance,” stated Michael Nesbitt, Smith County Mayor and UCHRA Aging Community Services Committee Chairman.
“Upper Cumberland families in need have been on the increase. This increase in funds represents a successful effort on the part of the UCHRA Board and staff to provide more LIHEAP program funds for qualifying families. This infusion of additional funds has come at the best possible time,” remarked Brock Hill, Cumberland County Mayor and UCHRA Finance Committee Chairman.
All UCHRA county offices are accepting LIHEAP applications between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. DeKalb County UCHRA is located at 527 West Main Street, and the telephone number is (615) 597-4504.
(Pictured front row, from left to right are John B. Mullinix, Fentress County Executive, Mike Foster, DeKalb County Executive and Chairman of the UCHRA Board of Directors, Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director, Michael Nesbitt, Smith County Mayor and Chairman of the UCHRA Aging and Community Services Committee, Curtis Hayes, Mayor of Livingston – Pictured back row, from left to right are Ray Ringley, Overton County Human Resource Representative, Kim Blaylock, Putnam County Executive, Ruth Ann Woolbright, Putnam County Human Resource Representative and Lee Webb, UCHRA Community Services Director.)