2,346 draw heat help
Despite a new law that amends provisions regarding income verification, fraud reporting and performance grants, the number of applications for heating assistance in Northumberland County is running close to last year's figures, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Welfare (DPW).
Donna Morgan, public information specialist for DPW, reported 2,346 applications have been approved in the county in 2012-2013 for cash grants under the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Payments to date total $554,348. In 2011-2012, 2,203 applications were approved, resulting in $538,530 in payments.
Morgan said 4,109 applications were received in 2012-2013 from county residents compared to 4,606 applications in 2011-2012.
"It appears we are running very close in the amount of approvals
compared to last year," Morgan said Wednesday.
She said DPW currently meets all the provisions set forth in House Bill 1991, which passed Oct. 24 and amends certain provisions regarding income verification, fraud reporting to the Office of Inspector General and performance audits by the Auditor General's Office.
Morgan said the bill hasn't had a significant impact on the number of applications approved in Northumberland County and other parts of the state.
"We've had no problems because of the bill. It's one more effort being made in our state to assure those who apply for the LIHEAP program are truly eligible and should receive the benefits," Morgan said.
LIHEAP cash grants help hundreds of Pennsylvanian families who meet income guidelines to pay their heating bills. The program opened Nov. 1 and is scheduled to continue until March 29.
The crisis grant program, which began Jan. 2, aids households with emergency needs such as an inoperable furnace or lack of fuel.
Morgan said 605 out of 611 crisis requests in Northumberland County have been approved for 2012-2013 compared to 592 out of 611 requests approved in 2011-2012. She said payments to date for the crisis grants total $166,728, compared to $128,112 for 2011-2012.
The state expects to receive $209 million from the federal government for this winter's LIHEAP program, which is down from 2011-2012. Last year's relatively mild winter left the state with an $84 million surplus it can roll into this year's program, Morgan said.
The DPW spokeswoman said the department expects to continue LIHEAP through March 29 and possibly extend it into April.
For more information on the LIHEAP program, or to download an application, go to the Department of Public Welfare's website at www.dpw.state.pa.us and click on "For Adults."
Pennsylvanians who suspect welfare fraud should call 1-800-932-0582.