Help Available To Those In Need Through Operation Warm
Winter months can be hard on those with fixed incomes, and people in need can face hard choices between paying utility bills and other needs, such as food or medicine.
A recent example is ‘Mrs. Doe,’ (her name has been changed to protect her privacy) an 85-year-old disabled widow from Morgan County. Each month Mrs. Doe receives a small Social Security check, along with a check for Survivors’ benefits from her deceased husband.
Mrs. Doe’s income is not enough to cover her winter utility bills from Hartselle Utilities. However, although her income is small, the combined total of the two checks puts Mrs. Doe’s income $82 over the maximum allowed to qualify for federal assistance.
Fortunately, the Community Action Partnership of North Alabama was able to step in and offer assistance from the Operation Warm program. “I am very cold-natured,” explains Mrs. Doe, “and so I am grateful that I’ll be able to keep my home warm and toasty this winter. This would not be possible without Operation Warm, and I’m so very grateful to each person who chooses to give to this program.”
Community Action distributes funds from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to residents of Morgan, Cullman and Lawrence County. Assistance is for low-income households and is designed to help the elderly, people with disabilities and families with a health crisis. Each eligible household can receive assistance up to twice a year, with an average award being $350.
Community Action is able to supplement LIHEAP assistance with funds from local sources, including Operation Warm. “Since January of this year, we’ve paid Hartselle Utilities $41,862.81 on behalf of clients,” says Cindy Anderson, Community Action’s Director of Community Services. “Of that amount, we received $2,170 from Hartselle Utilities customers through Operation Warm, so we’ve been able to help an additional seven clients.”
Anderson anticipates serving a total of 3,364 clients/households during the heating season, which lasts until May. Clients may also be eligible to receive assistance during the cooling season/summer.
If you or someone you know needs emergency assistance with a utility bill, you can apply for help from Community Action by calling (256) 260-4050 or making an appointment online at www.northalabamacommunities.org.
Applying for assistance from Community Action is not difficult, explains Resource Specialist Professional Sharalee Little.
“While of course every case is different, our appointments generally last no longer than 15 minutes,” Little says. “A client will need to bring documentation, including an Alabama photo ID for the head of household, proof of income for the previous month (or a witness who can verify that the person received no income), social security cards for all household members, and a copy of the family’s utility bill.” Other documentation may be needed instead of proof of income for full-time students and those with pending disability claims.
For the elderly, Little says, the most recent statement of income from the Social Security office can serve as proof of income.
Once a client has provided the required documentation, he or she will meet with a Family Services Manager, who will review their case and evaluate whether there are additional ways Community Action can assist the household. If the Family Services Manager determines that the client is eligible to receive assistance, the client will leave with a voucher for their utility bill, which they can present to Hartselle Utilities.
“We will accept the voucher from Community Action as payment on a customer’s utility bill,” explains Terri Harris, HU Customer Service Manager. HU accepts donations and forwards them to Community Action. Customers can make a one-time donation to Operation Warm, or choose to add a specific amount to their utility bill each month.
If you would like to contribute to Operation Warm, please complete the form at the left and return it to Hartselle Utilities. For more information, call (256) 773-3340 or email Terri Harris at email@example.com.