RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is now taking applications for the low income heating assistance program.
December means colder temperatures and higher heating bills for most households -- a situation that can be critical for fixed budgets.
"You don't think about it until a time like this, how much heat and cold weather is critical to someone that's in need," explained John Paul Womble. "A lot of times folks, they're in crisis, they've got more than just financial things going on, they've got family health issues. So, being warm, and safe and secure is even more critical."
Through his work, Womble knows firsthand just how critical staying warm is to staying healthy.
"I used to work with HIV and AIDS patients and the need is so great among folks that are sick and challenged with health concerns. So, being cold is the least of their issues," he said.
But, it is a big issue across the state. Last year alone, more than 120,000 households took part in the NC Department of Health and Human Services Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) -- a program that's now taking applications.
"I think we have approximately $50 million this year," said Director of Social Services at NC DHHS Wayne Black.
"That money is first allocated to households with anyone 60 or older or one person receiving assistance through the Division of Aging and Adult Services," Black said. "It's based on income. You see a lot of folks that live month-to-month and certainly in the winter time it started out being kind of cold this year, so, they're challenged by the heating bills that come up. This is the program to assist with the heating bills for those low income individuals."
The first round of applications goes until Dec. 31, and after that any available funds will be open to any household in need
"Households that are eligible will get a one-time payment to the heating company to help cover the higher cost in the cold months," Black explained. "And, it usually is between $200, $300, or $400."
For more information on the NC DHHS LIEAP click HERE.
To locate your local county Department of Social Services click HERE.
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North Carolina DHHS taking applications for low income heating assistance