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The economy hits home: More want help with heating bills this year
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Ninth District Opportunity would be out of funds for energy bill assistance if this had been any other year.

Since the beginning of the month, approximately 1,000 people have applied for the agency’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, according to Brenda Dalin, director of community services for the agency.

Dalin expects 250 more people to apply today at the Georgia Mountains Center, and normally, the agency would not have the funding to cover all those in need.

"Any other time, we’d already be cleaned out," Dalin said.

The agency offers a one-time heating bill assistance payment of up to $350 to help those who are eligible.

Normally, the agency receives about $2 million to assist those in its 18-county area who need help with heating bills, Dalin said. But Congress appropriated $4.5 million to the cause this year, anticipating more people would be struggling with gas bills.

Dalin saw evidence of the increased need Monday at the Georgia Mountains Center. Of the 250 people who applied for assistance, many were unemployed recently, she said.

"We’ve had a great deal of those today," Dalin said.

Representatives from Ninth District Opportunity will take applications again beginning at 9 this morning for those needing help with energy bills. To be eligible for the assistance, applicants’ income must be less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level, Dalin said. For a family of four, that income level would have to be between $24,379 and $31,800, according to the agency’s Web site.

Anyone who would like to apply for assistance today must first call to make an appointment at 770-534-8826.

"We’ll keep serving people as long as the funding lasts," Dalin said.