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HRDC sees an upswing in energy assistance applicants

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:58:51 PM MST
Updated On: Dec 05 2013 07:02:36 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

As temperatures hover around 0 degrees, some folks are struggling to stay warm. It's led some people to look for help through the Human Resources Development Council or HRDC.

Representatives with Bozeman's HRDC Energy Assistance Program tell us they've seen an upswing in the number of folks looking for help to pay their heating bills since the temperatures dropped.   

They say they're seeing around 27 to 30 households a day submitting applications. HRDC representatives tell us they anticipate that number will only go up once people get their bill for December.

"No one should go without heat during the winter months in Montana," says Caren Couch.

Couch is the Energy Programs Director at Bozeman's Human Resource Development Council. She tells us there are several programs available to renters and homeowners who need help paying their heating bills, whatever their primary heat source.

"Low Income Energy Assistance Programs or LIEAP as it's more commonly called pays directly onto the heating bill in most cases," says Couch.

She says people tell her that usually pays for their two worst winter heating bills, somewhere between $400 and $500. Couch tells us they also provide a weatherization program for folks who qualify for LIEAP.

"We install insulation, hot water heater jackets, pipe wrap, seal up holes. Do everything we can to lower the household's heating bill," Couch says.

Plus, LIEAP will help pay for emergency furnace repairs. For folks who don't qualify or when LIEAP doesn't pay enough, there's another program called Energy Share of Montana. It's a no-interest loan with payments as low as $10 a month.

"Our goal is to make sure every household stays warm this winter," says Couch.

We reached out to viewers on our Facebook page to ask whether they're having trouble staying warm in these sub-zero temperatures. People like Courtney Brown told us their story. She says her heater has kicked on every 10 minutes for the last 4 days and she dreads getting her bill. Amanda Peers says she can only turn her heat up to 60 because it costs so much. Carole Jensen tells us she's getting low on propane doesn't have the money to fill it.

Couch tells us they've taken 700 applications since October 1. They serve Gallatin, Park and Meagher counties and anticipate they'll help 1,800 households during the October through April heating season.

Those on food stamps the month they apply automatically qualify. If not, HRDC will look at household income and resources.

To find out if you qualify, head to HRDC's website and fill out a LIEAP form. Once it's been submitted, it takes around two weeks for benefits to kick in. However, they can expedite the process in an emergency.