Volusia County staff sought and got $2.02 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program budget from the County Council July 2.

The agreement, with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, began April 1, 2017 and ends September 30, 2020, a three-year contract period. This will bring the total awarded budget in the contract period to $5,494,443. The new funds will be used for administrative expenses of $61,057, program/outreach expenses of $256,494 and direct client assistance of about $1.7 million.

The funds are used to help low-income families meet the high cost of heating and cooling their homes. An estimated 4,648 households will receive LIHEAP assistance with the modified agreement amount.

Councilwoman Barbara Girtman said, “It is a crucial resource for those facing challenges to meet their utility obligation. Our staff have been actively working to connect the resources and bring the awareness to community programs serving populations needing help.

“We recently completed an outreach event in the Spring Hill community. Staff worked with the Spring Hill Resource Center and Florida Department of Health to identity households, specifically elderly, that were in need of LIHEAP or EHEAP services and offered appointments.”

A social worker was assigned to the resource center May 30, specifically to meet with the identified households. With the collaboration, 25 households were screened for eligibility in one day, the councilwoman noted.

The LIHEAP program provides energy assistance to eligible low-income households to alleviate financial burdens associated with heating and cooling expenses, such as electric, coal, propane and gas, according to the county website. A LIHEAP Crisis requires a past-due notice, disconnection notice, notice services have already been disconnected or notice that a deposit is needed to establish service. Eligible applicants must have a utility account already established to receive services; they must bring a copy of their utility statement to the Human Services office, which does not assist applicants to establish an account. In relation to gas/propane, the fuel must be used to heat the residence. Gas or propane used for cooking or warming water is not eligible for assistance.

According to Ms. Girtman, the LIHEAP award of $2.02 million is comparable to the previous year’s award.

The EHEAP program provides energy assistance to low-income households that have at least one member who is 60 or older to alleviate financial burdens associated with their heating and cooling expenses. The household member who is 60 or older must be the person who completes the application. It requires similar circumstances to the LIHEAP program.

Households with an outstanding balance of $600 or more are not eligible to apply. Eligible households may apply for a benefit once from April 1 to Sept. 30 and again from Oct. 1 to March 31. Households that get a LIHEAP Crisis benefit can't get an EHEAP benefit, too.

EHEAP is sponsored by the County of Volusia, ElderSource, and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

All payments are made directly to the energy company on behalf of the eligible family. Ms. Girtman stated EHEAP is getting $138,147, which is comparable to the previous year, and an estimated 638 households will receive assistance.

Councilwoman Billie Wheeler said, “I think we’re doing a good job, but we need to do better. We still have a problem. We really need to be addressing these situations even more so. We’re moving forward, we’re trying to serve the county the best we can, but we just have to continue. Let’s keep moving forward and how can we change; how can we be better? It’s always got to be the message.”

For more information, contact Carmen Hall, community assistance director at (386) 736-5955, ext. 12044, or visit volusia.org.

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