Families that rely on financial assistance to heat their homes in the winter may have to wait a little longer for help than in previous years.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is a federal program that distributes funds directly to the states and other territories.
The federal funds are then passed down to the Georgia Department of Human Services, who then helps to pay for the costs of either gas or electric heating for low-income households.
Households can apply for the heating assistance through a local community action agency or nonprofit organizations, like Ninth District Opportunity.
Brenda Dalin, program director for Ninth District Opportunity, said the funds that help pay for the organization’s heating assistance program have not yet been distributed to the state and applicants are being placed on a waiting list until those funds arrive.
Dalin said the organization has received thousands of phone calls from people seeking assistance since the application process opened for elderly and home-bound people Nov. 1.
The program will accept applications from the general public after Dec. 3.
According to a statement on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, a total of $3.068 billion in LIHEAP block grant funds will be made available in fiscal year 2013 under the current Continuing Resolution.
Georgia has been allocated $56,050,695 in LIHEAP block grant.
The financial assistance comes to individuals in the form of a one-time check for up to $350.
Dalin said the nonprofit has been promised enough money to help 2,500 households; last year, the organization was able to provide checks for 15,000 households.
Dalin said it is difficult to tell people who need the help they’ll have to be placed on the waiting list.
“They don’t understand the process, what it takes to get money down from Congress. All they know is they’re cold and they want to turn the heat,” Dalin said.
Because there are already so many people on the waiting list Dalin said she isn’t sure if the program will be opened to the general public because the funds may have already been exhausted.
Though the organization has to put the program on hold for the time being Dalin encourages seniors in need of the assistance to not to lose hope.
“Don’t give up — just because you’re on a waiting list doesn’t mean we’re not going to get you in here,” Dalin said.
Dalin said as soon as the funds are available, the organization will begin calling those on the waiting list.
Those interested in applying should contact Ninth District Opportunity at 770-534-8826. More information can be found at www.ndo.org.