COLUMBUS – As Ohioans try to beat the heat this summer, help is available for some vulnerable residents who struggle to stay cool.
The state’s Home Energy Assistance Summer Crisis Program begins Wednesday. It provides a one-time benefit to help offset the costs of higher electric bills.
Carrie McNamee, director of senior and community services for Washington-Morgan Community Action, explains some minor changes.
“This year some agencies have the options of purchasing air conditioners, and some will have the options to do the utility assistance and air conditioners, and some will just do the utility assistance,” she explains.
Also, customers enrolled in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) Plus program, which discounts their energy bill, will not be eligible for additional cash assistance. Those who remain eligible will receive a maximum of $250 for a regulated utility and $300 for an unregulated utility.
Eligible households must have a person age 60 or older, or with a documented, qualifying medical condition. The program runs through Aug. 31.
McNamee says hot temperatures are especially difficult for the elderly, and those with asthma or other breathing conditions. She says the assistance makes a big difference in keeping them healthy and safe.
“The program is very, very important here in Ohio because it does get pretty warm,” she says. “So, having the ability to provide them with a credit on their electric bill gives them the funding to keep the electric on, whether they’re running an air conditioner or even running a fan.”
McNamee recommends keeping an eye on elderly family members or friends, or those with medical issues.
“Check in, make sure that they are aware of the program, that they have an air conditioner or if they are suffering that they know that we can help them,” she advises
The assistance is only available one time, and the total household income cannot exceed 175 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. That’s about $42,000 annually for a family of four.