CRISIS FUEL ASSISTANCE NOW AVAILABLE
When temperatures plummeted below freezing last week, it was a wake-up call for many of us, and we rushed through the routines of filling our furnaces, changing our filters, and putting on our storm windows. But for many area households, winter is a time of year filled with dread as they face the prospect of stretching their limited income to heat their homes. The good news is that thanks to SEVCA’s Crisis Fuel Program, households that find themselves facing a home heating crisis this winter have somewhere to turn.
“SEVCA can help many qualified households experiencing a fuel emergency,” said Pat Burke, Director of SEVCA’s Family Services Program. “But funding cuts and rule changes mean that households may be eligible for assistance only once all winter. Last year, the state had to find extra money for a “Special Warmth Fund” because there were simply too many people at risk of being without heat. Even with this extra funding, and even though the need was as high as ever, the number of assists SEVCA was able to provide dropped 22% from the previous year.”
To be eligible for Crisis Fuel assistance, households must have incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, which is based on household size; e.g., $3,976/month (gross) for a family of 4. There are also other requirements before a household can qualify for help. One of these, introduced by the state last year, is that families must first apply to the state for Seasonal Fuel assistance before they can be considered for Crisis Fuel (whether or not they are eligible to receive Seasonal Fuel Assistance). That’s why SEVCA urges everyone who might have difficulty meeting their home heating needs this winter to apply for Seasonal Fuel Assistance as soon as possible.
Burke suggests that households check their fuel level regularly to avoid a situation where even Crisis Fuel can’t help them. “Don’t wait until you run out of fuel,” she cautions. “We try to see people as soon as possible, but it could take a few days, and we don’t want people to be in stuck with no heat at all.” The program also can’t pay for an off-route delivery charge, which can be very expensive.
Crisis Fuel Assistance is available from Nov. 24 to approximately mid-March. To apply, schedule an appointment by calling the nearest SEVCA Outreach Office between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday. To find the phone number and location of the nearest SEVCA office, call (800) 464-9951 or visit SEVCA’s website – www.sevca.org. Applicants must bring paystubs or other proof of income, know how much fuel is left in their tank (if oil heat), and provide information about their fuel dealer. SEVCA may also be able to assist households whose furnaces stop working or are unsafe, with an emergency furnace repair or replacement. To apply for Seasonal Fuel, apply online at www.mybenefits.vt.gov or call (800) 479-6151. This is also the number to call for Crisis Fuel Assistance on weekends and holidays, and for furnace repair or replacement assistance on weekends, holidays, or for after-hours emergencies.