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County DSS to pay heating bills for approved low income families

Winter could be a little bit warmer with a little help with the Rowan County Department of Social Services.

DSS will begin accepting its first batch of applications for the low income energy assistance program on December 1. The second batch of applications will be accepted starting Jan. 2, 2015. The program requires special conditions to be met, but would provide $200 to $400 if applications are approved.

Basic requirements include having at least one U.S. citizen or qualified immigrant in the household, a heat source billed separately from rent or other expenses, income that is below 130 percent of the federal poverty level and have resources less than $2,250.

For example, a house with only one person in it must have an income below $1,265 per month and a house with nine people living in it must have an income below $4,784.

DSS Director Donna Fayko said there’s no specific limit to how many people can apply.

“We’ll just use the money until it runs out,” Fayko said. “If you think about a family who has a mother with young children, during the winter months they can’t afford to pay the bills and it’s an additional expense to pay the heating bill.”

Last year the program paid bills for more than 1,500 Rowan County families, amounting to $443,700, according to Fayko. Despite the amount of money spent, Fayko said the total number of people served, and subsequently money spent,  was less than the total amount possible. As a result, Fayko said DSS had to return the remainder of the department’s money.

“Over the past two years, because of mild winters, we have had excess money and had to return it to the state,” she said.

When applications are approved and money paid out, Fayko said DSS submits a check to the power company, which could take two weeks. It’s only a one time payment, Fayko said. Families cannot re-apply in January after receiving a payment in January.

If a family’s heating bill is less than the total check payment to the power company, Fayko said an account credit would likely be applied for future bills.

The applications accepted on December 1 require specific conditions be met, including: one person living in the home who is age 60 or older or one disabled person who receives social security. The household can also include a person who receives 100 percent Veterans Affairs disability and also receives services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services.

Applications for all other households will begin on Jan. 2 and continue through March 31, or until funds are exhausted.

“I’d encourage people to apply because my preference is not to send it back,” Fayko said.

The Rowan County DSS is located at 1813 East Innes Street in Salisbury.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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