January 14, 2003
COUNTY SHOWS RISE IN REQUESTS FOR HELP WITH ENERGY COSTS FOR RESIDENTS WITH LOW INCOMES
CHARLOTTE, NC -- The number of Mecklenburg County households eligible for this year's one-time cash assistance to help with heating costs rose nearly 14 percent. That means Mecklenburg County's portion of the state funds is $875,290 -- a nearly 5 percent increase over last year.
The NC Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP), administered locally by the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS), offers eligible families with low-incomes a one-time cash payment for the year to help pay heating bills.
Mecklenburg County has 11,812 eligible households expected to receive a check in early February. A preliminary look at the benefit levels shows the check amounts will range from $28 to $108.
Sharon Johnson, special projects coordinator for the DSS Economic Services Division, said that Mecklenburg County accounted for 1,439 of the state's 4,000 increase in eligible households.
Some families who already receive food stamps automatically qualify for the LIEAP help, and DSS accepts applications from others in the County during a two-week period in November. The number of applications in November 2002 totaled 1,798. The number of households receiving food stamps and eligible for the LIEAP help was 10,666.
Program officials attribute the increase in applications and eligible households to several factors including:
· A higher number of individuals who were unemployed and applying for help for the first time
· Increased publicity about the program's application period
· Co-location of the program with agencies providing other financial services for families.