West Virginians having trouble affording their utility bills may get the help they need through the Dollar Energy Fund's Utility Assistance Grant Program.
The fund is taking applications now for five of its six utility company partners - Mon Power and Potomac Edison of FirstEnergy, Equitable Gas, Dominion Hope, Mountaineer Gas and West Virginia American Water.
The grant opening period for its remaining partner, Appalachian Power, will start Dec. 1.
According to a news release from the Dollar Energy Fund, Appalachian Power President and Chief Operating Officer Charles Patton said the company is delaying participation and reducing the grant award from $500 to $300 in an effort to spread funds through the winter months.
To qualify, people have to earn below 150 percent of the poverty level and have received a termination notice or have their utility turned off. For example, a family of four would have to earn $35,325 to qualify for assistance.
People also have to make a sincere effort of payment of $100 in the last 90 days or $50 for West Virginia American Water.
"It gets you on your feet, pulls you out from what's holding you down and alleviates some of that stress," said Rachel Coffman, the fund's Appalachian program manager.
Each household can apply once a year per utility between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30, 2014, according to the release. The maximum grant amount is $500.
"Our motto is this is a hand up not a handout. This is not a yearlong funding for people getting in the program," Coffman said.