Heating assistance program heating up - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Heating assistance program heating up

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HIAWATHA (KWWL) - You can feel it in the air: winter is coming, and so are heating bills. The Energy Information Administration estimates the average American will spend $960 on heating this winter.

The cold arrived earlier than normal, meaning many who rely on LIHEAP (the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) may need it earlier this year. We visited the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) on Monday. Their phones have already been ringing off the hook with people calling for their heating assistance.

"We have had a lot of calls in the last two weeks," said Lorna Golson, who manages the energy assistance program at HACAP.

She says an early winter chill, combined with lingering economic woes, may both contribute to a greater demand in LIHEAP this year.

"Last week, we had probably 300 calls, and that's just the ones that are tracked through what we call our 'energy line.'"

Golson's office has taken 900 applications since October 1st, when elderly and disabled customers began calling in. Low-income families usually cannot apply for the program until November 1st. But Golson says if a low-income family is in danger of having its heat disconnected because of an unpaid or late bill, they can call HACAP or their local family resource center for earlier assistance.

Golson expects to see an increase of low-income applicants over last winter. "That's more the folks who are working, or may have been laid off; not fixed-income, so much. So, there is bound to be a change."

Last year, HACAP awarded $4.3 million in energy assistance grants to thousands of households in its six-county service area. The average household received about $600 in assistance. LIHEAP not only helps with heating bills, but can be used to weatherize your home as well.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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