UKB to begin Summer LIHEAP Services in April
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH – Beginning April 1, the Health and Human Services Department at the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians will be accepting applications for assistance with summer cooling costs through its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.
LIHEAP is a federal program designed specifically to assist low income Native American families with relief from heating and cooling costs all year. Program eligibility is based upon the 2019 Federal Poverty Guidelines and requires applicants to provide income verification from each member of their household.
“For the summer LIHEAP program, it focuses purely on electrical and electric bills,” said Jennifer Cole-Robinson, Health and Human Services director. “This is also when we will look at buying air conditioners for our elders as well to ensure that they have air conditioning systems.”
Robinson said UKB will pay up to $300 for an electrical bill in a six-month period. She also asked any tribal members that use the service to let her department know as far in advance as possible before a possible utility cut off.
“We’re asking for at least ten days prior to a cut off, because we cannot guarantee that all the paperwork will be processed in time to prevent the cutoff. We have to work with the agency’s guidelines and system to try and prevent the cut off,” she said. “We have to send over a promise to pay and if that agency closes and they do not receive our promise to pay prior to the closing, it may be a weekend before they can get back with us and it show up in their system.”
Elders who qualify for an air conditioning unit will be notified after their application has been processed and have to pick up the unit on UKB grounds, though eligibility will depend on last year’s information.
“They’re window units and if elders received a window unit last summer, they will not be eligible for a unit this summer unless something mechanically has happened to it,” said Cole-Robinson.
Health and Human Services also offers a Crisis LIHEAP program separate from winter or summer LIHEAP for elders, the disabled and families with small children in the home.
“It allows us to do one additional electric bill during that six-month period that we would otherwise have not been able to do,” said Cole-Robinson. “It is not guaranteed assistance though. We have to look at all the variables, such as the last time they utilized LIHEAP.”
Tribal members can acquire applications from their district representative or directly through Health and Human Services. A downloadable application will also be available soon on the “Services” tab on the www.ukb-nsn.gov website.