Families struggling to pay for their electric bill may qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, a federally-funded program that helps eligible low-income households pay for their home energy bill.

Community Action Agency of Northeast Alabama Program Director Carrie Lea said their agency received the LIHEAP grants and are expecting a modification which will provide them additional funding this year and would extend the season until October 31st.

“People that have been affected by COVID-19 who have been laid-off, lost their jobs or have had the virus and are out an extra medical expenses, we would love for them to contact us and hopefully they should qualify for this program,” said Lea.

She said the agency has received other funds from the Fort Payne Improvement Authority and Sand Mountain Electric Co-op. The program is a community care fund and would give the agency funds to help those who have been financially effective by COVID-19 meet their utility and other family basic needs.

According to tva.com, TVA EnergyRight has joined with local power companies to launch a resource that helps Valley families in need find information more easily about federal funds available through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

LIHEAP has operated since 1980 to help eligible households pay their home energy bills. But as part of the recently passed COVID-19 federal stimulus package, it has received an additional $900 million cash infusion for all states.

DeKalb County residents may apply for the program through the Community Action Agency of Northeast Alabama.

The CAANEAL Fort Payne Office Manager Haven Blalock said their office is currently closed to the public until the end of May. However, they are still available through phone and have continued to set up appointments.

Blalock said funding for the LIHEAP Program comes twice a year.

“We have a winter program that starts in January and ends in May and a summer program that begins in June,” she said.

The months of January and June are designated for seniors age 60 and older.

“The summer appointments started May 1st and are scheduled a month ahead. Right now [Fort Payne office] month of June is already booked,” said Blalock.

She said by the afternoon of the first of the month, the schedule was completely full; therefore she encourages people to apply as soon as the appointments become available at the first of the month.

Although the Fort Payne office appointments may be booked, there may be openings for residents in the Sand Mountain area, said Blalock.

Appointments are set up through an automated system by calling 1-855-287-1730 and providing your zip code.

“As long as they live in DeKalb County, they are either going to come to my office in Fort Payne or the office in Rainsville,” she said.

The Fort Payne office serves all of Lookout Mountain as far as Mentone to the county line, from Sulfur Springs to the Collinsville/Etowah County line and anyone that lives on Sand Mountain that has a Fort Payne address.

The Rainsville office serves all communities from Henagar, Ider, Sylvania, Rainsville, Fyffe, Geraldine and Crossville.

“This is a low-income assistance program, so families that are eligible can receive assistance up to four times a year depending on the situation of their home,” said Lea.

Availability for appointments vary within each office. Blalock said for the Fort Payne office, if you call the number to set up an appointment right now it’s going to say no appointments available at this time. However, the schedule will open back up on June 1 to set up appointments for July.

In order to qualify for this benefit program, you must:

• be a resident of the state of Alabama

• need financial assistance for home energy costs

• you have to be below 150 percent of the poverty guidelines

• the light bill has to be in the name of someone in the household. Landlord statements are acceptable

• income verification is required, this includes the previous months check stubs, award letters, self-employed record, or unemployment. [COVID-19 stimulus funds are not counted]

• you must provide a photo-id when applying

• everyone in the household must provide their social security care. [recent exception provides the acceptance of a tax document, state or federal agency document that contains a person's name and social security number on it]

• must provide a copy of the light bill

• individual on a prepaid utility service are eligible to apply for the program

Blalock said in the summertime the program coverage is strictly electric and in the winter time it covers whatever your primary source of heating is including electric, propane and natural gas.

The following is a list of various services provided by Community Action Assistance

• Low Income Home Energy Assistance- assistance on a one-time basis to low income families to meet heating and cooling energy costs and to prevent energy from being terminated in health crisis situations. Funds are paid directly to utility companies and vendors.

• Sand Mountain Electric Cooperative: Neighbor Helping Neighbor- utility assistance for eligible individuals and families funded by Sand Mountain Electric. Neighbor helping neighbor is a collective effort in your community. Every donation matters, no matter the amount. If you are a customer who can donate directly through your electric account, please sign up today.

• Weatherization Assistance Program- the weatherization assistance program (WAP) enables low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. Funds are used to improve the energy performance of dwellings families in need, using the most advanced technologies and testing procedures available in the housing industry.

• Farmers Market Nutrition Program- $30 voucher available for seniors 60 years of age or older. Visit the office for assistance filling out an online application.

• Emergency Food and Shelter Program- the EFSP provides food boxes for eligible individuals and families. Also Utility assistance and/or rent assistance for eligible individuals and families.

• Community Service Block Grant- utility and propane assistance for eligible individuals and families ages 55 or older. $50 food gift card for eligible seniors ages 55 and over. $45 public transportation for eligible seniors ages 55 or older.

For additional information or for first-time assistance can contact the Fort Payne office at 256-845-6702 or Rainsville office at 256-638-4430.

The Community Action Agency of Northeast Alabama Fort Payne office is located at 1209 Forest Ave. NW and Rainsville office is located at 1481 McCurdy Ave. S.

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