Do you have a plan for paying for growing energy bills this winter? If not, you might want to check out the Energy Assistance Program (EAP) at Western Community Action.
One of the services we can help with is signing up for Cold Weather Rule (CWR) protection. The CWR is in affect from Oct. 15 through April 15, and is in place to help protect consumers from having their utilities disconnected in the winter months. Many consumers do not realize that the CWR is not absolute; utility companies can and will disconnect households year round for non-payment. Only customers signed up for the CWR and making regular payments are protected from disconnection. Also, energy companies can have different policies regarding CWR protection; it is always best to contact your company for specific information or read the information supplied with your monthly energy bill.
Another misconception is that fuel companies must deliver fuel during the winter months. Delivered fuel vendors are not covered by the CWR; they can require payment up front for fuel deliveries. Only connected utilities (electricity and natural gas) are covered by the CWR. Western Community Action's EAP staff can assist households with obtaining CWR protection, making payment plans with their fuel vendors and setting up a personal budget to plan for their energy needs.
The EAP helps pay for home heating costs for individuals or households who are at or below 50 percent of the state median income. For example, a family of four who earns approximately $43,500 annually would qualify for the program. The size of the grant is based on household size, income, energy type and energy usage. The households with the lowest income and the highest energy costs receive the largest grants. You can live in a house or an apartment; even those individuals living in subsidized housing who only pay for their electric costs are eligible for a small grant.
In these tough economic times, we would like to reach out to those who could benefit from energy assistance but whom, for one reason or another, are not using our services. If you are a senior citizen or a person with a disability living on a fixed income, you should be applying for this program. Low-income families with children can also benefit from using the EAP. EAP does not pay for all of a household's energy costs, but is used to assist with heating costs and make them more affordable. As costs of goods and services continue to rise, we are hearing from a lot of people who haven't used this service in the past.
Other services provided by the EAP are emergency furnace repair/replacement, access to weatherization assistance, energy efficiency education, referrals to other services and emergency assistance for utility disconnections and fuel deliveries.
EAP is available to people from all walks of life. Single people and families can apply. We can pay for any type of energy, from electricity and fuel to corn burners. No one should go without heat in their home, or have to give up other necessities to pay their energy bills.
If you know someone who could benefit from the Energy Assistance Program or have questions about the CWR, please contact our Marshall office at 1-800-658-2448. Applications can be obtained at our office, or check out our website at www.wcainc.org. The EAP is funded through the State and Federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Rachel Bagley is the Energy Programs Manager for Western Community Action. Western Community Action serves families and individuals in need in Lyon, Lincoln, Cottonwood, Jackson and Redwood counties.