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Home heating help is back
Federal funding drought had limited aid for residents
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Ninth District Opportunity Inc.

The Low Income Energy Assistance Program is open to all income-eligible households starting at 9 a.m. Monday.

To apply for one-time payments to be made to energy suppliers, call (706) 265-3744.

When applying for assistance, residents will be required to present verification of all household income received within the past 30 days, verification of Social Security numbers for everyone in the home and the most recent home heating bill.

In an announcement likely to warm hearts and homes, the Ninth District Opportunity Inc. signaled it will resume its heating assistance program for low-income residents later this month.

The nonprofit, which has offered a one-time payment of heating costs for decades, had to postpone its Dec. 1, 2011, launch date due to what appeared to be lack of funds from the federal government.

The program relies primarily on federal grants.

With the federal budget passing, more money than originally anticipated was allocated back to the program through the Georgia Department of Human Services, said Shawn Howell, a program manager for Ninth District Opportunity.

"It's not as much as last year," Howell said. "But it's enough to open the program."

Beginning at 9 a.m. Monday, eligible households can begin applying for heating bill assistance. Eligibility is based on the income of everyone living in the residence.

After temperatures dipped far below freezing several nights earlier this month, the program's renewal is likely welcome news for those who have relied on it in the past.

It will also take some pressure off other nonprofits that offer similar services.

Even with the money coming through, it's unclear if it will be enough to meet demand.

In the winter of 2010-11, the nonprofit paid out nearly $4.7 million in heating assistance to 13,000 households in a multi-county area, backed primarily from the government funds.

This year there is about $2.5 million, Howell said.

"It will be like we usually do at Dec. 1," he said. "We'll take calls and eventually go on a waiting list."

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