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Help on the way from LIHEAP

Help on the way from LIHEAP
NASHVILLE – Amid the current dismal economic news, there finally was some good news for citizens who are struggling to pay their utility bills. The Tennessee Department of Human Services was granted more than $80 million to provide heating and cooling assistance to low income families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) late Thursday released $5.1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Tennessee’s share is $80.5 million, which is $50 million more than last year’s allocation. “LIHEAP is a critical program for thousands of Tennesseans in need,” said Human Services Commissioner Virginia T. Lodge. “We have never been able to serve all of the eligible families who apply for LIHEAP assistance. This funding boost will give our community partners the opportunity to take thousands of people off their waiting lists and give them help in the upcoming cold weather months.” Nineteen community agencies administer the program across all 95 counties in Tennessee. LIHEAP is 100 percent federally funded through a grant from HHS. Eligibility for LIHEAP benefits is based on established federal poverty guidelines, and documentation of household income is required. Tennesseans whose household income does not exceed 125 percent of federal poverty guidelines (that’s $26,500/year for a family of four) are potentially eligible for the program. Priority is given to elderly and/or disabled citizens. For Weakley Countians, Northwest Tennessee Economic Development Council is administrating the funds and can be reached at 731-364-3228. The assistance does not go directly to the client. Instead, it is made in the form of a payment to the utility company or home energy provider. More than 80,000 Tennessee families are assisted each year through the LIHEAP program, and even with rising energy costs, DHS and its community partners should double the number of families the program serves. WCP 10.21.08

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