SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Beginning next month, Georgians having a hard time covering their home cooling costs can apply for one-time assistance.
The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services’ Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program opens its Cooling Program on April 1.
The program’s federal funding helps low-income, elderly and medically homebound Georgians cover costs associated with cooling their homes during the warmer months.
The program provides direct payments to home energy suppliers.
People ages 65 years and older, and those who are medically homebound, are eligible to submit applications in April.
The application process opens to other eligible Georgia residents on May 1.
In Chatham County, the Economic Opportunity Authority is available to accept applications.
The local nonprofit organization is one of several Community Action Agencies across the state through which the Cooling Program’s funds are administered.
“The government has been involved in the energy conservation business for many years and in the last three years, the state of Georgia, with its allocation from the federal government for energy assistance, decided to do more than just provide funds for heating,” said the Economic Opportunity Authority’s interim executive director, Terry Tolbert.
“They are also providing funds for cooling because a large portion of low-income citizens around the state live in areas where there are more hot days than there are cool days,” Tolbert told WSAV NOW.
People who aren’t able to leave home due to a medical condition will need to provide a note from a doctor, he explains.
“In order for us to come take an application or send somebody on your behalf, you will have to have a statement from your physician indicating that you are unable to come out,” Tolbert said, adding that sharing details about the medical condition is not necessary.
To qualify for the program, a family’s annual income must be less than or equal to 60% of the median income for a Georgia family.
For a one-person household, the income threshold is $25,025, and for a five-person household, the income threshold is $55,825.
“The minimum amount that a family could qualify for would be $350, and the maximum will be $400,” Tolbert said.
Seniors over 65 years old who meet the income criteria will automatically receive $400 in cooling assistance.
Tolbert adds that applicants who previously qualified under the Heating Program can requalify under the Cooling Program.
However, he realizes not everyone may be able to receive help.
“This is a program that’s open to every citizen in the county who qualifies, and because somebody may have gotten this service a year ago or even in the last few months doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be getting it,” Tolbert said.
“Some people will say, you know, ‘I got it last year, how come I can’t get it this year?’ Because we don’t receive enough money to serve every citizen in the county who may financially qualify,” he said.
To qualify, applicants must provide:
- Most recent cooling bill or statement of service from their cooling providers;
- Social Security numbers for each member of the household;
- Proof of citizenship for each member of the household;
- Proof of income, including paycheck stubs, for the last 30 days for each adult member of the household;
- Social Security or unemployment benefits for all household members, if applicable.
Available funding will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis until they’re exhausted.
Tolbert says applicants eligible to apply next month will need to call 912-721-7910 beginning at 7 p.m. on April 1 to schedule an appointment.
“[The number] will continue to be up until all the appointments have been taken up, and once the appointments have been taken up, that telephone number will no longer be active,” he said.