Emergency money for heating bills from last year's severe winter is now available to low-income Maryland residents.
A special energy crisis program sponsored by the office of Economic Development provides individual grants of up to $250 in a three-part program for needy families and individuals.
Coordinated through the department on aging in Prince George's County and the department of social services in Montgomery County, the program offers payment directly to the power companies for those residents who have yet to pay last year's heating bills. For residents who have paid those bills, a credit of $250 toward next year or a $50 cash payment now and a $200 credit for the future is available.
"We want the people who have felt the brunt of the winter, those in the lower-income bracket, to get relief," said Shirley Wyvill, case aide coordinator in the department of aging and coordinator of the grant project in Prince George's County.
"We especially want to reach the senior citizens. Many, we know, scrimped and saved and went without medical care and food to pay their bills," said Wyvill.
Since the program began Aug. 1, Prince George's County has received more than 400 applications, and Montgomery County has gotten 82 for the emergency relief. Wyvill and her counterpart in Rockville, C. D. Lester, said the number of requests are barely "scraping the needy individuals this money could help. We want to get the word out," said Wyvill.
The major criterion for the program is income, Lester said. Individuals are eligible if their yearly incomes do not exceed $3,173. For two people, the maximum income allowed is $4,913, up the scale to $9,713 for six persons. "We can send case workers out, too, for older citizens," said Lester. "One man had a broken hip, so we had to go out and interview him in his home."
Montgomery County citizens will draw from the $7,500 allocated for their program, while Prince George's residents will work from more than $28,000 in grants. The difference, Lester said, came about because of an emergency fuel-aid program sponsored in Montgomery County last year. "We softened the blow already for some," said Lester. "We had grant money from the county for those in dire need and spent over $17,000 in that program."
Applications for the assistance can be made until Sept. 23 at Montgomery County's Division of Elder Affairs, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rockville, 881-4922; and in Prince George's at the Department of Aging, Hampton Mall, Central Avenue, 350-1554, or at several satellite offices in the country.