UCHRA Receives Increase In Energy Assistance Funding

“The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency has received a budget increase of $3,176,900 for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program allowing the agency to serve more low-income individuals in the Upper Cumberland Area,” announced Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director.

LIHEAP is a Federal program administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services and subcontracted through UCHRA that provides a one-time per year energy assistance benefit to eligible households, based on a priority point system and the availability of funds.

“We are glad to have this increase in funding to assist in providing more services to the residents in our 14-county area, said Bennett. With the allocation of this money we will be able to provide energy assistance to more than 13,000 eligible households.”

“The increase will more than double the original allocation of $3,112,603 making the total fiscal year 2011 LIHEAP budget $6,289,503,” added Lee Webb, Community Services Director. “ By comparison, the fiscal year 2010 LIHEAP budget was $5,081,257 and the FY 2009 budget was $3,772,800.”  

The Federal government requires that applicants meet an income guideline to be eligible for the program.  The required level of poverty is 200% for a household to be eligible to receive LIHEAP assistance.  Under these guidelines, for example, a household of 4 people may have an annual income up to $44,100 and qualify.  Payments in increments of $300, $450, or $600, are paid directly to the provider of the eligible household’s primary energy source (i.e. electric, natural gas, propane, coal, wood, or kerosene).  The amount of the payment depends upon “Priority Points” associated with an eligible household.  

Priority Points are based upon information provided on the applications as determined by a computer program that calculates points on the basis of:  (1) the household’s % of the federal poverty guidelines (35 point maximum), (2) the household’s energy burden (20 point maximum), which is the household’s % of income used for home energy costs, and (3) the household’s having one or more “vulnerable” members (50 point maximum), which includes the following:  an elderly member aged 70 years or older, an elderly member aged 60-69 years, a disabled member, a child under 6 years of age, an Adult Protective Service (APS) referral, six or more persons in the household.  

The household’s points for each category are totaled, and that number determines the payment amount.  Households are awarded payment amounts as follows: 0-50 points receive $300, 55-75 points receive $450, and 80-105 points receive $600.  Payment amounts are lowered for clients who live in public housing and pay only a utility “overage.”  Priority Points also determine the order from high to low in which eligible applications are processed.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program also has an Energy Crisis component, the purpose of which is to prevent termination of service or depletion of the primary energy source.  The Crisis Assistance is based on a household’s uncontrollable circumstances which must include either a shut off notice, or a lack of home delivered fuel notice, in combination with at least one of ten (10) conditions, such as a household wage earner with at least a year of of stable work has lost his/her job within the last twelve (12) months, that may render the household at risk of being cut-off or not having a source of energy.  Applicants for Crisis assistance must meet the same income guidelines as for Regular Energy assistance.  Crisis payment amounts are based upon the same priority point system as Regular assistance.

All UCHRA county offices are accepting LIHEAP applications between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Cannon County residents can apply at the local office, 301 West Main St., Room 302, Woodbury, TN 37190.  For more information on LIHEAP or any of the other UCHRA programs in Cannon County please call 615-563-2916 or visit www.uchra.com.