Highland DSS Offers Heat Assistance

Cooler weather is not far off, and we spoke with Highland County Department of Social Services to learn more about their heating assistance programs. Executive Director Sarah Rexrode:

“One of the public assistance programs that we’re responsible for is Energy Assistance. On October 9th, we will begin accepting applications for the Fuel Assistance component of that program. That program application period is from October 9th through November 9th this year. I was concerned, because we’ve had some warmer than usual weather for this time of year, and the program is actually starting a little earlier than it has in the past, and just wanted to make sure people know that the program application period for fuel assistance really is just through November 9th, and if we don’t receive those applications, then customers will not be eligible to receive that assistance.

“Fuel Assistance helps with your home heating costs if you meet eligibility requirements. Part of those eligibility requirements are certain citizenship requirements, as well as income requirements, and if you are applying, you must be responsible for paying the heating cost to your dwelling.

“It is a reimbursement type of program, and it’s not designed to cover the entire cost of your heating for the winter, but it is designed to help offset the rising cost of energy bills for your home.”

Services Specialist Malorie Brower provided more detail.

“So what will happen is, you’ll fill out the application. If you’re deemed eligible, you will not get any sort of notification or anything until middle of December, and that’s once the state determines what the benefit amount will actually be, and then those checks usually come out towards the end of December/beginning of January. If you have a particular vendor, such as electric vendor, it will go straight to the vendor, whereas if you have a wood heat source, the client will receive a check specifically to them, that they are required to use for their heating purchase of wood and oil, if we don’t have an approved vendor.

“There’s a really complicated calculation that the state determines, but they look at things as far as household composition, income, certain medical deductions, such as if you’re aged and you have a Medicare premium. The reason they wait until mid-December to determine what the benefit amount is, is that once they gather all the applications and determine how many for each source, they then use the calculation to determine what you would be eligible for. So it’s not clear-cut – it varies from year to year, itvaries from program.

“They can apply several different ways: you can get an application at the office; you can apply on the Common Help website (www. https://commonhelp.virginia.gov) ; or you can also call the customer enterprise center. If anyone needs assistance filling out an application, I’m more than willing to do that with them. But I would need verification of their heat vendor, so if they have an electric account that they heat with, I would need to know the company and their account number, so if they have a current bill, or if it’s an oil delivery, they can bring them into the office with them, that’s most beneficial. Certainly, any questions, they can call, and I can kind of walk them through the process.”

A second program is also available.

“The Crisis Assistance program will also begin on November 1st. That program typically runs from November 1st through March 15th. The program that begins in November is primarily used for those customers who need assistance with a one-time only heat security deposit, a portable space heather for temporary use, or payment for emergency shelter, and/or heating equipment purchase and repair. The other component of Crisis Assistance does not begin until the first working day of January, and that is to assist with those customers who may have a cut-off notice, or be low on fuel or wood.”

“Crisis Assistance must alleviate or resolve the current energy crisis within 48 hours, or 18 hours if there’s a life-threatening condition, such as if temperatures are under 32 degrees, or there’s a vulnerable household member, and that would be anyone under the age of six, or aged disabled.

“For more information on any of the fuel assistance/crisis assistance, I can be reached at 540-468-2199, extension 304, or I can be emailed at malorie.brower@dss.virginia.gov. “

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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