Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County -- If LIHEAP wasn't operating, you would have... I can't even tell you how many households would be going without heat," said Jennifer Warabak with the Community on Economic Opportunity in Luzerne County. She isn't directly involved with the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP. But as CEO's Emergency Energy Services Coordinator based in Wilkes-Barre, she handles many of the same people who are LIHEAP applicants. While those applicants range from full families to single living seniors, many have the same financial struggles heating a home they own or rent. "You have high fuel costs, you have a lot of older homes in this area that just, you know, use a lot of gas, electricity, oil, propane."
The LIHEAP program shelled out nearly $7 million dollars to Luzerne County applicants alone last year. But not everyone who is entitled to the funding is actually getting it. Of the 1.5 million Pennsylvanians who were eligible in 2012, less than 400,000 statewide actually received LIHEAP funds. Part of that problem sometimes is in the application process. "If you fail to provide some type of information or if you fail to simply sign your application that's going to hold, ultimately hold up, your grant because now you need to get something from the Department of Public Welfare saying that your application couldn't be processed." That means reapplying and ending up at the back of the line for a LIHEAP grant that's offered on a first come, first serve basis. Warabak would hate to see any family lose LIHEAP help that might mean the difference in staying warm for winter. "That's why this program is so important because it's meant to supplement their yearly heating assistance."
You can apply in person at your local county assistance office or online at www.compass.state.pa.us. You can get a list of county assistance offices by logging onto www.dpw.state.pa.us/foradults/heatingassistanceliheap