Cooling assistance on the way

Cooling assistance on the way

URBANA — Financial help is on the way to help cover the cost of cooling off from the summer heat wave.

But those who qualify will have to act quickly.

The money is expected to go fast, said Darlene Kloeppel, social services director at the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.

Champaign County has $140,000 to give away to help needy families pay electric bills through a LIHEAP — Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program — summer cooling benefit, Kloeppel said.

The $150 summer cooling benefit being offered is restricted to older people, the sick and disabled and those with small children.

To qualify, people must meet income guidelines, for example $1,396 for one person or $1,891 for two persons, for the past 30 days, and their household must include one of the following:

— A person age 60 and older.

— A person receiving Social Security or disability benefits or with a disability application pending or who has a medical condition (certified by a doctor within the last 90 days) that can be helped by air conditioning.

— A child under age 5.

To apply, come in person to the Brookens Administration Center, 1776 E. Washington St., U, starting Wednesday.

Applications will be taken weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

"We'll see as many people as we can until the money runs out," Kloeppel said.

Summer help with power bills doesn't happen every year. Kloeppel said. Last year, the state skipped the assistance but is offering it this year due to the severe heat wave.

"It was so hot the last couple of weeks, they decided to do it," she said.

Counties were instructed to take a portion of their heating assistance funds for the winter ahead to use for summer cooling, but there will be enough money left for heating assistance, Kloeppel said.

"This is a small amount," she added.

Those intending to apply should bring the following documents with them, Kloeppel said: Proof of income for the past 30 days for all household members, Social Security cards for all household members; their most recent gas and electric bills; medical cards if anyone receives this benefit and proof of age or disabilities as needed to prove eligibility.

Because of a change in applications, people won't be able to apply for both summer and winter heating benefits at the same time, Kloeppel said.

Those also intending to apply for winter heating bill assistance will have to return in the fall, she said.