- Lani Hansen
UKB LIHEAP assists elders with heating costs
BY TRISTA VAUGHN
TAHLEQUAH – The Health and Human Services Department at the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians wants members to know it accepts applications for energy assistance through its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, all year.
“We are always accepting applications for LIHEAP,” said Jennifer Robinson, Health and Human Services director. “We offer LIHEAP and we also have a crisis program for our elders with families who have young children or with a disability. We also have some funding set aside for weatherization costs.”
LIHEAP is a federal program designed specifically to assist low income Native American families with relief from heating and energy costs.
“We can help up to $300 for electricity,” said Robinson. “We structured the propane cost for the winter to fill up their tank. If they have a 250-gallon tank, we can purchase 200 gallons as long as it goes below $400.”
Program eligibility is based upon the 2018 Federal Poverty Guideline and requires applicants to provide income verification from each member of their household. Once approved, funds can be set aside for several purposes.
“We can utilize funding to pay for electrical costs if that is how they heat their house. We can use it towards natural gas if that is how they heat their house. Families can ask for assistance for the propane cost if that is how they heat their house in the winter. In the summer though, it is purely for electric,” said Robinson.
She expressed the importance of the program and urged tribal members to utilize the service if eligible.
“We have a lot of low-income family households that have a very high energy cost, maybe due just to where they live,” said Robinson. “Their housing may not be insulated well enough to make it energy efficient. It is very important our members utilize the program as often as they can, which is once every six months.”
Health and Human Services can also assist elders in crisis situations if they are on a fixed income and have high utility bills.
“We offer a crisis program for UKB elder tribal members,” said Robinson. “It is not guaranteed assistance. We have to look at all the variables, such as the last time they utilized LIHEAP. If they have children in the home and are facing a disconnection, we will do a crisis payment for that. If you receive a cut off, we want it in here as soon as possible. At least five days prior to your disconnect.”
Robinson added the crisis program is once in a six-month period and separate from the main LIHEAP assistance.
LIHEAP applications are available at the UKB Federal Programs Building and through each of the nine UKB district representatives.
“Several of the council representatives has the applications,” said Robinson. “If they want to fax an application, we need the application, the utility bill that they want assistance with and their income verification.”