PSC Approves Ten Million in Emergency Heating Aid from USF
(APN) ATLANTA — The Georgia Public Service Commission has approved ten million dollars from the Universal Service Fund, to help cover the heating costs of certain low-income people, particularly as US Congress has not yet finalized a 2012 budget nor separately funded the LIHEAP program.
The funds will cover one-time payments of up to 160 dollars for up to 60,000 households.
There are two types of individuals who are eligible to receive the funds: low-income seniors and low-income individuals enrolled in a PSC-regulated program called Group 1.
Low-income seniors who believe they are eligible should contact their gas provider to apply for the funds to be applied to their account.
“Senior citizens who are already receiving the AGLC senior citizen discount must apply for the grant through their natural gas marketer in order to receive this assistance. Senior low income citizens who are not currently receiving the discount but are eligible should submit an application in order to qualify for this assistance. To qualify for the discount, a senior citizen must be age 65 or older and have an annual income of less than $14,355,” according to the PSC.
Low-income persons in Group 1 do not have to apply; they are already on a regulated program with SCANA Energy and will automatically receive a bill credit.
The fund is not intended to assist the general population of low-income people; only seniors and those in the Group 1 program, Bill Edge, spokesman for the PSC, told Atlanta Progressive News. Edge said this includes about 5,000 families.
APN contacted SCANA and spoke with a customer service representative to find out more about the Group 1 program.
A SCANA representative stated that an individual is eligible for the Group 1 program if they are low-income and are referred through their local community action agency. This means either they have received a LIHEAP payment in the last year for a gas bill and are in the state’s database; or if they receive a specific referral from the community action agency, which also enters them into the state database.
Contact the DHR at 1-800-869-1150 for the Community Action agency in your area.
Edge said, however, that he does not know whether an individual applying to get into Group 1 now, would qualify for assistance. According to the PSC’s press release, the funds are intended for the December-January billing cycle.
“The reality is that the states are getting stuck with the impacts of drastic federal cuts to the energy assistance program and there are going to be some truly needy people out there when winter heating bills start arriving,” Commissioner Chairman Stan Wise, who made the motion to provide the assistance, said in a statement.
“In difficult economic times like these, it is a blessing to have funds contributed by large industrial customers to assist low income seniors. We have so many great companies in Georgia and I hope we in government will make the business climate as friendly for them as possible,” Commissioner Tim Echols added.
As previously reported by APN, community action agencies across the nation have been running out of LIHEAP funds early, causing a heating assistance emergency for many families who rely on the LIHEAP payments to cover extraordinary seasonal energy costs.
In part, this is because the US Congress has failed to pass a 2012 budget and has not funded LIHEAP in any of its Continuing Resolutions.
But the fight for LIHEAP may not be over.
Yesterday, a multi-partisan coalition of US Senators co-sponsored the LIHEAP Protection Act.
They include US Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Mark Begich (D-AK), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Scott Brown (R-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Robert Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), John Rockefeller (D-WV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Jim Webb (D-VA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).