COLUMBUS, Ohio - The dog days of summer are here, and staying safe in the heat means many Ohioans soon will be facing higher electric bills. An annual program is available to help eligible households who may not have enough money to stay cool.
The Home Energy Assistance Program's Summer Crisis Program provides a one-time payment toward an electric bill or central air-conditioning repair. Penny Martin, public-information officer for the Ohio Development Services Agency, said about 9,000 households have received assistance since the program began July 1, which is on track with last year.
"Each year we budget on what we anticipate participation will be and set aside the money so we're confident that we can help all those that apply and are eligible," she said. "We make adjustments as we can here to make sure we can help as many Ohioans as possible."
Eligible households must have a member living there who is age 60 or older or with a documented medical condition impaired by hot weather, such as asthma or COPD. The income qualification is at or below about $44,000 annually for a family of four. Qualified customers of regulated electric utilities receive a benefit of up to $300; for unregulated utility customers, it is up to $500.
Martin said the goal is to make summer a bit more comfortable, as well as safe for those whose health is affected by higher temperatures.
"Sometimes heat can impact how medication will work," she said. "Especially for those with asthma, it can sometimes impact their rates of an asthma attack so it does make an impact on just overall quality of life."
Martin noted that for low-income Ohioans who need more than just one-time assistance, the PIPP Plus year-round payment program is available. PIPP Plus participants are not eligible for Summer Crisis assistance, although they might be qualified to receive a fan or air conditioner. More information on both programs is available through local Community Action Agencies or online at energyhelp.ohio.gov.