Heating Assistance Demand Constant, Next Phase of Funding Facing Cuts

by Gabe Bullard on December 22, 2011

Louisville officials are anticipating a cut in federal Low Income Heating Assistance Program funds, but not a drop in demand.

LIHEAP has two phases: subsidy and crisis. For the subsidy phase, low-income Louisvillians can get help paying their utility bills. In the crisis phase, applicants for assistance must show proof that their utilities are about to be cut off.

The subsidy phase has ended, and, as in previous years, about $1.5 million was distributed, indicating that demand for money in both phases has likely plateaued.

“[That] seems to be the indication. Just based on the demand there and the demand on other kinds of programs we have in our department,” says Debbie Belt with the Department of Community Services and Revitalization. “Still, the unemployment rate seems to be improving, but there are still people out there who are unemployed or working other jobs just to make ends meet.”

Appointments for LIHEAP’s crisis phase can be scheduled in person beginning next Wednesday at the government center on Barret Avenue. Any money received from LIHEAP is paid directly to utilities on customers’ behalf.

The money will be distributed beginning January 4th, and appointments will continue until all of the money is distributed. However, it’s not clear how much money Congress will allocate for the program.

“We never got an allocation projection for Jefferson County; we were just hearing statewide it was as much as even a 50 percent decrease over what we got in past years, but it’s looking like it won’t be nearly as drastic,” says Belt.

Belt anticipates a roughly 20 percent cut in funding. Last year, the city got about four million dollars for the crisis phase.

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