As temperatures drop, utility costs typically rise, often creating a financial burden for low-income households. Among the most vulnerable populations are the disabled, the elderly, and families with preschool-age children.
To offset these costs, the Home Energy Assistance Target (HEAT) program provides winter utility assistance to households in need between November and April of each year. Funded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the HEAT program is administered locally through the Bear River Association of Governments (BRAG).
“We serve both Cache and Rich counties in our office,” said Susan Wright, a HEAT intake worker. “This is such a wonderful program because we help so many people. So many of our clients are on fixed incomes, social security, or have a disability, and this really helps cover their expenses. We also see many, many clients who have no income at all.”
Eligibility to participate in the HEAT program is dependent on multiple factors. Based on household size, income must be documented at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, and at least one member of a participating household must be a U.S. citizen or qualified immigrant. Assistance is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
HEAT program applicants are required to provide proof of income, copies of their most recent utility bills, and social security cards for each member of their households. Birth certificates are required for children under the age of five.
“Even if people aren’t sure they qualify, I always encourage them to come and seek it out,” Wright said. “Often, it will be surprising what they may qualify for, especially if their household includes someone over the age of 60, someone under age six, or a person with a disability. In those cases, the household will receive an additional $150 benefit.”
Wright emphasizes that while every situation is different, HEAT benefits are allocated according to an established formula based on income, household size, and energy usage. The program served 18 households in Rich County last winter and provided assistance to approximately 1,600 households in Cache County, with an average benefit of $330.
More information about the Cache County HEAT utility assistance program is available at <a href=”http://brag.utah.gov/test-1/heat-utility-assistance-program/”>www.brag.utah.gov/test-1/heat-utility-assistance-program</a> or by phone at (435) 713-1444.