A severe winter may force some elderly persons on fixed incomes to make a choice between heat and food. To help people in these circumstances, area offices on aging administer emergency funds with money allocated through federal programs for the elderly.

In Montgomery County, about 60 persons or families already have received help, mainly in paying utility bills, but the money also has provided food, warm clothing, transportation or emergency home repairs. The Division of Elder Affairs (telephone 279-1487) provides the help.

One case involved a man of 86, living alone on a monthly income of $200, who was falling behind in his fuel oil payments.Another case was that of a woman 91 years old who was caring for three handicapped children over 60 years of age. The family needed a new water heater but did not have the money to cover this emergency and pay for daily necessities.

Elder affairs division workers said that even when the weather improves, many older people still will need help because "they have depleted their small resources to buy food or fuel or to repair damage from the weather."

A similar program is conducted in Prince George's County by the Department of Aging, under the direction of Shirley Wyvill at telephone number 350-1554. When a call is received, the caller is encouraged to come to the aging office at 9171 Central Ave., Capitol Heights. If he or she cannot easily make the trip, a worker will go to the home.

According to Wyvill, a personal review of requests is important not only to verify the need but sometimes even to define it. Some elderly people are so concerned about paying their bills that they often do without necessities like food or clothing.

Related programs provide rent rebates to financially pressed seniors and handicapped persons.

In Prince George's County the rent relief program is coordinated by Bess Garcia of the Department of Aging. In general, to be eligible citizens must be 63 or older, or be classified as disabled; have household incomes of no more than $8,000 a year and be a county resident for at least a full year. Because of several recent changes in determining eligibility, Prince George's residents seeking the rent aid are advised to inquire directly by calling 350-6666, extention 524. Forms are available from the treasury division, telephone 952-3770.

In Montgomery County the rent relief program is administered by Donald Lazas of the Division of Revenue. Requirements are comparable to those in Prince George's County.

Nearly 2,000 applications for aid have already been approved in the current Montgomery program, and Lazas said he is convinced that there are more eligible persons who have not yet applied.

Average payments are about $200 per applicant per year, but they can be more or less depending on circumstances. The number to call for information or for an application is 279-1302.

It is the philosophy of the revenue office that all residents who are in need and are eligible should be served by the program, Lazas said, because "when there is an income of say $3,000 and nearly $2,000 goes for rent, there is not much left for the remaining necessities of life."