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County receives heating grant

Gov. Bob Riley is doing his part to make sure no Crenshaw County residents are left out in the cold this winter.

Riley awarded a $410,601 grant to assist low-income families in seven south and central Alabama counties with their home energy bills late last week. Besides Crenshaw County, Bullock, Butler, Covington, Dale, Lowndes and Pike counties will benefit from the funds.

"Without this assistance a number of Alabama's low-income residents, elderly, persons with disabilities and families with small children, would have to endure the winter without heat," Riley said. "In addition, unpaid bills could result in utilities being disconnected for some families leaving them with no way to prepare meals."

The grant was issued to the Troy Organized Community Action Program and will be used in the counties to help the low-income families and individuals meet the high cost of warming their homes this winter.

"Most of the time the funds don't go out in the form of money," Jerome Hand, a spokesperson for Gov. Riley's office, said. "People bring their power bills in and if they meet certain low-income eligibility, then they pay a portion of their power bills."

The funds are being made available through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The primary purpose of LIHEAP is to help households with combined monthly income at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level meet the rising costs of heating and cooling. The funds are distributed to families who qualify for assistance through local community service organizations.

All 67 counties statewide receive funding through LIHEAP. The funds are distributed to the counties by the 22 Community Action Agencies throughout the state.

"We certainly don't want anyone that may be in a situation where they have to live in a house without heat because it's a health hazard, not only uncomfortable," Hand said. "You also run into situations where it's very dangerous because some people will try to use space heaters, kerosene heaters or other alternative means of heating their homes that are dangerous. Through LIHEAP we're able to help disabled, low income and elderly people, depending on their eligibility, pay a portion of their power bills, which helps them out tremendously. This is something that HUDD does at least twice a year."

Funding is also provided to low-income families during the summer months to help pay for the rising costs to keep cool.

"We're just trying to get help to the people that need it the most," Hand added.

Riley awarded the grant from funds provided to the state by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He has designated that Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to administer the grant.

Eligible persons or families interested in applying for energy assistance can contact the Organized Community Action Program in Troy at 334-566-1712 for more information.