JEFFERSON-Hundreds of people descended on the Ashe County Courthouse Monday morning for a chance at federally funded heating assistance.
And despite cool temperatures and a constant downpour, some of the people waited in line for more than eight hours to ensure their chance at funding.
“By the time it’s all over, we’ll probably have 400 or so people that will come by,” Donna Weaver, Ashe County’s department of social services director said. “But we’ll likely end up helping 200 or 250 people, just depending on how much money we get.”
The federally funded Crisis Intervention Program aims to help families stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The idea is to reduce the risk of health and safety problems like illness, fire or eviction.
The amount of help local DSS agencies like Ashe County’s can provide is based on the amount of funds available, Weaver said, but Ashe will like have somewhere between $125,000-$128,000 to distribute this year.
Applicants can receive a maximum of $600 per year through the program, but the agency starts around $300 to ensure it can help the maximum number of people possible.
“The good news is that fuel prices are down this year, so everybody gets more bang for their buck,” Weaver said.
To apply, applicants must make 150 percent of the poverty level or less, must be able to demonstrate a “heating or cooling emergency,” and the household must contain a United States citizen or other eligible member.
And since all payments are made directly to third parties like heating oil vendors, Weaver said the program is easy on applicants.
“Heating oil, wood, propane – whatever these folks heat with, we’ll be able to help them directly,” Weaver said. “Deliveries will actually start being made as quickly as possible because we’ve already entered into contracts with the delivery companies. They know to expect a check from us and they’ll start working down the delivery list soon.”
Even though the program is first come, first served, Weaver encouraged anyone who thinks they might qualify to come by and sign up for the CIP.
“When things turn really bad in January and December, that’s when you see other cases, other folks that might need help, come up,” Weaver said. “And we have churches donate to the program and sometimes we get a little more funding, so we may have some more crisis funding available even after this first round.”
It won’t be the only shot Ashe residents have at winter heating help this year. The federally funded Low Income Heating Assistance Program will allow families to receive a one-time vendor payment to help pay for their heating bills beginning next month.
The program is slightly more stringent than CIP – applicants must earn 130 percent of the poverty level or less and households can’t have more than $2,250 in resources available – and priority will be given to homes with someone 60 or over, or disabled people receiving assistance through the Division of Aging and Adult Services.
Beginning Jan 4, LIHEAP will be open to all applicants and households. Applications will be taken through March 31 or until funds are exhausted.
For more information, call the Ashe County Department of Social Services at 336-846-5719.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.