Technicality impedes some NC residents looking for heating assistance

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by Nick Ochsner, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on January 7, 2014 at 7:43 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 7 at 7:43 PM

CURRITUCK CO. -- Residents in northeastern North Carolina looking for help with their heating bills may be left in the cold after at least two social service departments ran out of money for fianancial assistance programs.

Both the Pasquotank County and Currituck County Department of Social Services have already distributed money designated as part of the Crisis Intervention Program, which pays up to $600 on behalf of those who demonstrate a financial need and currently don't have or are in immediate danger of not having a heat source.

The CIP money is available beginning in July and running through the spring to pay for emergency heating and cooling needs.

Officials with Pasquotank County DSS said their Crisis Intervention Program money is already spent. An employee at the agency said on Tuesday they had distributed $169,000 to 683 people this year.

Kathy Romm, the DSS director in Currituck County, said her agency had already distributed the roughly $60,000 allotted to the CIP fund by state and federal authorities.

"If someone is truly out of heat in this dangerously cold weather we're certainly going to make sure that they have a warm place to stay," Romm said.

One option Romm and other DSS agencies across the state have available is a second program called the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, which also pays money to those who need assistance.

Unlike CIP, though, LIEP is only available to households with elderly or disabled people.

"The state flip-flopped the percentages between the CIP program and LIEP this year," Romm explained. "So, there isn't a reduced amount, it's actually the same ammount, it's just in a different program."

Romm said her department in Currituck County still has roughly $60,000 in LIEP money available to distribute.

Pasquotank County has only helped 206 people under the LIEP program and still has $254,000 left to give out.

The restrictions on the LIEP program only last through the end of January. Anyone with a demonstrated financial need can apply for LIEP funds starting February 1.

In Currituck County, Romm said, anyone without a warm place to stay can call 911 or the non-emergency dispatch number.

Romm also encourages people to check on elderly family members and neighbors who may be ill-equipped to handle the deep freeze.

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