Winter is still more than a month away, but Pennsylvania officials are trying to get people to plan ahead and send in their applications for heating assistance.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, is now issuing grants to help residents pay their energy bills through the winter.
“You don’t want to be coming to us when thing are cold, or when that polar vortex is there,” said state Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas, who added that it can take a month to have heating assistance kick in after an application is submitted. “People might have a tendency to say, ‘You know what I have time,’ but … it takes time for us to process that paperwork.”
Applications can be found online or at county assistance offices. About 400,000 Pennsylvania homes received heating assistance last year, according to the state’s tally.
Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, would like to avoid what happened last year when some of her constituents learned about LIHEAP grants a bit late, and the weather turned before their grants kicked in.
“My employees felt so bad for these folks that they went and bought space heaters,” said Kim. She’s hoping her office doesn’t have to use its reserve of space heaters again this year.
“It’s there for people who really need the help,” she said.