Heating Assistance Offered

The winter heating season will be here soon and so will those high heating bills. For some in our community, like seniors, staying warm is often a luxury they can't afford. That's why the Economic Opportunity Authority is offering a helping hand. For the tenth year in a row, the EOA and the Department of Human Resources are helping people with limited resources pay their energy bills.

Since the program began, more than $5 million has been paid out in Chatham County. For people like Bertha Shell, the program is a godsend. "It helps me out a whole lot because I am a widow," she told us. "I just get social security. It helps me a whole lot."

The guidelines are based on household income and the number of people who live in the home. To qualify, applicants must bring their most recent fuel bill or statement of service from their heating energy provider. They must also have proof of income for all household members for the last 30 days.

During the month of November, applicants will be served on a first-come, first-serve basis. Beginning December 1, you'll have to make an appointment to have your application considered. More than $300,000 will be awarded to needy applicants in Chatham County this year, but that will only help one third of the people who need help.

"The estimate in the community is about 15 to 19 percent are living in poverty," said Terry Tolbert, deputy director of the EOA. He says that they are able to help a large part of the community, adding, "We certainly won't be able to touch the number people who certainly need it."

The energy assistance is a one-time award paid by check made payable to your heating energy provider. If you need help with your heating bill, stop by the Economic Opportunity Authority at 618 West Anderson Street. The program runs through April 2004, or as long as funds are available.

Reported by: Ron Wallace, rwallace@wtoc.com