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Help for heating bills expected to be lowest since 2008

DAVID WEISSMAN
YorkDispatch


A decrease in federal funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) could mean some cold winter nights for York families.

The program, which helps low-income households pay their heating bills, re-opened Monday, according to the state's Department of Human Resources.

It supplies cash grants sent directly to utility companies or crisis grants to households in immediate danger of being without heat.

Early reports show Pennsylvania receiving more than $182 million of the $3 billion allotted for the program nationally, according to the office of Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

The total funding for the 2015 fiscal year was $3.4 billion, with more than $204 million allotted to Pennsylvania. The expected 2016 fiscal year funding would be the lowest since 2008.

According to the department's website, a one-person household would need to make less than $17,655 to be eligible for the program. The eligibility line rises by $6,240 for each additional household member.

Approximately 1.6 million households in Pennsylvania are eligible, according to a news release from Casey's office, and less than 25 percent of those households were served during 2014.

Within the state's program funding, York County was allotted just more than $3 million, the 11th-highest county allocation in the state, according to the release.

That money went toward 8,954 households receiving cash grants and 3,015 receiving crisis grants, according to the department.

The average cash benefit was $203 per household in York, and the average crisis benefit was $397 per household.

To apply for LIHEAP benefits, visit www.compass.state.pa.us or download an application on the department's website and return it to the county assistance office, 130 N. Duke St. in York City.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.