COLUMBUS, Ohio - The flip of the calendar page from October to November means emergency heating assistance is now available for eligible Ohioans.
The Home Energy Assistance Program's Winter Crisis Program starts Thursday and provides a one-time, $175 payment toward a heating bill for low-income households who have been disconnected or received a disconnection notice.
Ray Foeller, an outreach and education specialist with the Ohio Office of the Consumers' Counsel, says the assistance pairs well with the Winter Reconnect Order, which started a few weeks ago.
"If a customer is in a disconnect situation, either a shutoff notice or has been shut off, if they are able to obtain $175, they can avoid a shutoff, regardless of how much is owed to the utility company," Foeller states.
The Winter Reconnect Order is available through April 15 and does not have any income restrictions. Households must be at 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines to qualify for the Winter Crisis Program, which ends March 31.
Struggling Ohioans who are not necessarily in a crisis situation may also qualify for one-time, energy payment assistance through HEAP.
Foeller says the amount varies and last year was $136 dollars on average.
"That amount, whatever it's determined to be, will appear as a credit on my heating bill," he explains. "Whether I heat with gas, whether I heat with electric or even heat sources that are not regulated by the state - for example, propane or literally even firewood - you can use a heat voucher."
HEAP is funded through congressional appropriations, and Foeller says it has received varying levels of funding support throughout the years.
But Foeller notes there is a growing need for this type of assistance.
"Many of the homes in Ohio and around the country are experiencing poverty," he points out. "And this is one of the things that can help normalize or stabilize that home and keep households safe and warm during the wintertime and creating a healthy living environment."
Ohioans can apply for HEAP programs through their local community action agency and learn more at development.ohio.gov.