The UCHRA is seeking matching funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
“I am pleased to announce that with the additional funds UCHRA has been awarded through its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, UCHRA will be able to serve approximately 9,500 low-income households with energy assistance in the 14-county service area this year,” announced Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director. “That is a significant increase over the 4,544 served during the past program year,” she continued, “However, we are still falling short of providing assistance to all eligible applicants.”
“When the direct services budget of UCHRA’s 14- county Low Income Home Energy Program, which provides one-time per year energy assistance to low-income households, was increased by the Department of Human Services effective December 1, 2008 from $1,230,327 to $3,084,980, more than 150%, it was hoped every eligible household that applied for assistance this year could be served,” explained Lee Webb, Community Services Director. However, as the economy has worsened and more jobs lost, the requests for assistance, especially from first-time applicants, have sky rocketed. Today, more than 80% of the available funds have been used to assist households with energy payments, and some counties have exhausted their LIHEAP allocations, which are distributed to counties based upon a formula provided by the State.
When UCHRA’s LIHEAP budget was amended in December a new category, “Leveraging Fund” in the amount of $300,836, was added by the State to the budget. For every $1 of non-federal funds that UCHRA can document as being spent to assist LIHEAP-eligible households, UCHRA will receive $2 from the Leveraging Fund to assist additional clients with LIHEAP energy assistance. The leveraging budget represents almost 860 additional eligible households that could be served. LIHEAP eligibility is based simply upon documentation of the fact that the applicant’s household income does not exceed 125% of the federal poverty guideline (e.g., $26,500 for a family of 4). The fact that a household has received LIHEAP assistance does not prohibit claiming additional non-federal dollars used to assist them as matching funds.
The non-federal funds do not have to flow directly through UCHRA. If for example, if a church assists a household with paying its utility bill, and it documents the income and reports the amount of the assistance to UCHRA, the LIHEAP Program can draw down double that amount in leveraging funds. Some utility companies generate funds, though a “round-up” or voluntary contribution program, which are allocated to community-based organizations to assist families in crisis to pay utility bills. In order for UCHRA to be able to use those non-federal funds for leveraging, organizations would have to (1) document that the household served meets the 125% poverty guideline and (2) report the household name and amount of assistance to UCHRA. Even if the organization chooses to also serve households above the 125% poverty level it could report to UCHRA only those that meet the income guidelines.
“With the critical need for energy assistance funds during this financial crisis it will be a shame if UCHRA is unable document $150,418 in non-federal energy assistance being spent to assist LIHEAP-eligible households in order to receive an additional $300,836,” stated Bennett. “We request that utility companies, community-based organizations, churches, and individuals utilizing non-federal funds to assist families with energy expenses to contact the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency. “Our staff will work with businesses, organizations, and individuals to determine if it will be possible to use their energy assistance funds to leverage additional federal dollars, so that even more low-income households in need of energy assistance may be served,” stated Webb.
Interested parties may contact Sandy Carter, LIHEAP Manager, at UCHRA’s Central Office at 931-528-1127 or the DeKalb County UCHRA Office at 615-597-4504.