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Thousands Apply for Heating Assistance in Fulton


(APN) ATLANTA -- Things were chaotic for the first couple weeks after Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program funds became available to the general public on December 01.  The LIHEAP funds--which are administered through counties across the US and are targeted to the winter season--had been available for seniors since November 01.

On the first few days, people were lining up as early as midnight in the freezing cold.  The Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority (FACAA) had asked people not to line up outside, but it couldn't be prevented.

Because there were only so many applications the FACAA staff could take in a day, many people were asked to come back the next day, with no guarantee of being seen on that day either.

"Some applicants became frustrated, especially if they were facing a power disconnection," Joyce Dorsey, Executive Director of FACAA, told Atlanta Progressive News.  "Many of the people we serve become boisterous or restless."

"If I've been out since midnight in the bone-chilly cold, it does incite people to restless anger," Dorsey said.

Dorsey says the initial rush of LIHEAP applications has relaxed a bit, but FACAA is still seeing 500 applications a day at its different locations.  Thousands of Fulton residents have applied, just since December 01.

Dorsey says she has dispatched many of her corporate office staff to other locations to take the LIHEAP applications.

"At the beginning, people in the most dire need were the ones out there.  They were antsy and raising the roof.  Those people have been addressed.  Now there are more people with ordinary needs than in crisis," Dorsey said.

LIHEAP funds are limited and are first-come, first-serve.  FACAA estimates they may run out of funds in February 2011, even though the program period extends through March.  

Funds are distributed to counties based on the percentage of poverty in each county.  Some counties, like Cobb, have already exhausted their funds, having received less than Fulton.

"For the amount of money we receive, 2.5 million to 3 million dollars, that will serve about 12,000 people, as many as 14,000, depending on how much people are approved for," Dorsey said.

"Many people are accustomed to take care of themselves.  People call me because they don't want to call the hotline because of stereotypes.  Sally Smith got let go from General Electric, and has exhausted her 401(k).  They'll say, 'I know how to budget.  I know how to rob Peter to pay Paul.  Peter doesn't have enough,'" Dorsey said.

"We're calling this the new faces of poverty.  People who thought it'd never happen to them.  Children of baby boomers, now adults, who thought they had a piece of the American dream.  Many of them started with a college education and a good salary, until the ladder was pulled out from under them," Dorsey said.

HOW TO APPLY

To apply for LIHEAP, visit one of the five site office locations (addresses and hours below).

Bring a photo ID; proof of income for the last one month; social security card; and the electricity or gas bill, including any disconnect notice.

Applicants must complete a brief application, and will be approved according to the LIHEAP eligibility guidelines.

LIHEAP assistance is a one-time payment ranging between 200 and 350 dollars.

Once the payment is approved, it takes several weeks for the check to be mailed from FACAA to the utility company.

Each applicant will receive a copy of the approval form in the mail.  This can be taken to the utility company as proof of payment.

In the meantime, an applicant may need to make temporary payment arrangements with the utility company.  If no arrangements are available and the power is in danger of being shut off, FACAA can call or fax information to the utility company to pledge the amount.  The utility company generally accepts the pledge as if it were a payment guaranteed.

Households are eligible to receive LIHEAP in Fulton if they make no more than the maximum household income for the program.  For one person, that is 21,940 dollars; for two people, that is 28,691 dollars; for three, it is 35,442; for four, it is 42,193; for five, it is 48,944; for six, it is 55,695; for seven, it is 56,961; for eight, it is 58,226.

After receiving the one-time per year LIHEAP payment, households may also be eligible for a second emergency assistance payment under another program through FACAA.

East Atlanta residents can visit the Dekalb-Atlanta Human Service Center at 30 Warren Street, SE Ste. 280, Atlanta 30317, every weekday from 9am to 3pm.

South Fulton residents can visit the Department of Family and Children Services on 5710 Stonewall Tell Road, College Park 30349, every Tuesday and Wednesday from 9am to 3pm.

South Fulton and Downtown Atlanta residents can also visit FACAA's Community Resource Center on 341 Kelly Street, Atlanta 30312, on Wednesdays from 1pm, to 730pm.

North Fulton residents can visit the Pleasant Hill Community Center at 725 Pleasant Hill Street, Roswell 30075, every Monday and Thursday from 9am to 3pm.

North Fulton residents can also visit the North Fulton Charities on 11270 Elkins Road, Roswell 30076, every Tuesday from 9am to 3pm.

(END / 2010)


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