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State expects energy aid to stay same

A West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources spokeswoman believes the state will spend roughly the same amount of money helping needy families pay for utility costs this fiscal year as last.

This amount is significantly less than what the federal government allocated to the Mountain State during fiscal year 2010-2011.

The funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is made available to states through a federal block grant, said Marsha Dadisman, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

In fiscal year 2010-2011, the federal government allocated $40.8 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds to the state agency to help pay utility costs for needy families.

That funding dropped to $29.6 million for fiscal year 2011-2012, according to figures provided by Dadisman.

So far this year, the state has received $26.9 million, according to the figures.

Although this is represents about 90 percent of the 2011-2012 allocation with nearly six months left in the fiscal year, the funds are only used to help pay utility bills to heat homes, Dadisman said.

"So we only pay out the money during the cold weather months," she said.

Dadisman said she expects the current fiscal year's funds to mirror last fiscal year, she said.

Federal agencies are providing less money to states for numerous programs and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is no exception.

The funding is used to help needy families around the country pay for heating bills and to winterize their homes, Dadisman said.

The state gets additional funds for families that are in imminent danger of having their utilities shut off, she said.

Dadisman was unsure how much emergency money the state had received.

"It would be accurate to say that it would be difficult for folks to pay for the cost of their home heating without this program," she said. "So to many West Virginians, this program is very important."

Dadisman was unsure how many individuals in the state received assistance through the program.  

The program assists eligible households with the cost of home heating through direct payments to utility companies.

Those hoping to qualify for the assistance must be responsible for the cost of heating their homes. Income levels also determine eligibility.

The maximum monthly gross income for a single person household receiving funds from the program is $1,211, according to figures provided by Dadisman.

The maximum allowable gross monthly income increases by $429 for every person in the household, according to the figures.

The application period is announced as appropriate, according to information provided by Dadisman.

Applications can be obtained at Department of Health and Human Resources county offices. Online applications are available at www.wvinroads.org/inroads.

Information needed to apply includes a copy of a recent heating bill and proof of household income.

An application for the emergency program must be made in person at the Department of Health and Human Resources offices.

Anyone seeking more information about the program can contact the local DHHR office or call 1-800-642-8589.

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.  


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