DSS: Most heating assistance funds already spent

By Cindy Beamon

Staff Writer

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Area residents seeking financial assistance paying their heating bills may find some relief in the coming month — but not in time for this week’s cold snap.

The Pasquotank County Department of Social Services has already depleted $172,000 from its Crisis Intervention Program fund, which offers emergency heating bill payments to low-income households.

Some funds through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program will be distributed but payments are not immediate.

Elderly, disabled applicants were eligible to receive payments through January. Other low-income families can apply starting on Feb. 3. Households that qualify can receive up to $400 toward their heating bills.

Pasquotank DSS Director Melissa Stokely said the $500,000 in LIEP funds will probably run out quickly.

Stokely said LIEP funding will probably not offer much relief during this week’s cold snap.

In many cases, the homeless hang out at Walmart, end up at the emergency room or will even get themselves arrested on some small infractions to escape the cold, she noted.

Of the homeless, Stokely said, “I think there are more than people realize.”

Currituck DSS Director Kathy Romm said some LIEP funds are still left from about $50,000 the county was allotted. As in Pasquotank, Crisis Intervention Program funding is already gone.

She urged anyone in the county who is without heat to contact DSS anyway. She said the department could help the person think through some of his options.

“If somebody calls today with no heat, we would try to do what we can because it’s going to be dangerously cold for the next two days and nights,” said Romm.

She also encouraged residents to check on elderly neighbors to make sure they have heat.