Appeal helps ease heating woes - Catholic Courier

Appeal helps ease heating woes

Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes assists many Cayuga County residents who struggle to stay warm, thanks to its affiliation with the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).

Yet Ellen Wayne, CCFL’s executive director, noted that requests for HEAP — a federally funded initiative that provides benefits toward energy costs — aren’t always filed in time for paperwork to be processed, resulting in short-term financial crises. When such instances arise, Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal funds serve to plug the gap.

“It extends our ability to help,” Wayne said of the funding, adding that Christmas Appeal money also helps people who don’t meet HEAP qualification guidelines yet still face the possibility of their heat getting shut off because they can’t pay their bills.

Wayne noted that Cayuga County has a considerable rural population with many low-income residents whose problems are exacerbated due to substandard living conditions. For example, “Their energy dollars might be going out a drafty window in a mobile home that’s not well-insulated,” she said.

Regardless of the circumstance, Wayne said that “people do unfortunate things” when they have scant funds to keep themselves warm, turning to such unsafe sources as their cooking stoves or propane heaters for their main heating sources. Other folks, she said, simply keep the heat shut off and hope for not too harsh a winter. However, Wayne remarked, “You can’t go the whole heating season thinking you’re going to get by. Any day, there’s the potential for the weather to turn.”

CCFL promotes the HEAP program through notices in area parish bulletins titled “No One Should Have to Stay in a Cold House,” warning that doing so can cause illness and even death. The notices add that those qualifying for HEAP can receive financial assistance for annual energy costs, emergency situations or repair/replacement of inoperable heating equipment.

Catholic Charities processes applications for HEAP in conjunction with the Cayuga County Department of Social Services. Residents can qualify for HEAP regardless of whether they heat with fuel oil, kerosene, propane, wood, corn, pellets, coal, natural gas or electricity. Current monthly income limits to qualify for HEAP range from $2,138 for a one-person household to $5,427 for a six-person household.

Wayne observed that an ever-increasing volume of folks in her region — frequently the working poor — are approaching CCFL to help not only with utility bills, but all other kinds of living expenses.

“Every one of them has their own story,” she said. “What we’re seeing, more and more, is people with limited income are all the time facing decisions of what do I pay, which bill is more pressing. We hear all the time, ‘I don’t even know if I have the gas to get (to the CCFL offices) because I need the gas to drive to work tomorrow.'”

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you, a relative, neighbor or friend live in Cayuga County and need assistance to cover the cost of heating a home, contact Catholic Charities at 315-253-2222 or stop by the office at 134 E. Genesee St., Auburn, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


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