PDT Staff Writer
Regardless of the type of heat they use, many Kentuckians -- like people in other states - have difficulty paying their heating bills every winter, said David Armstrong, chairman of the state Public Service Commission.
Information on heating assistance is available from utility companies and local community action agencies, but funds are limited and sometimes run short during the heating season.
"Don't put off looking for assistance until after your situation has become a crisis," Armstrong said. "If you think you may need help paying your heating bills this winter, start looking for help now."
Gov. Steve Beshear announced Friday that Kentucky families who qualify will receive a 40 percent increase in their subsidy for bulk fuels to help pay heating and fuel costs this winter.
The increased subsidy is part of a big funding hike this year -- $75 million -- for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
The program helps qualified people with the purchase of home heating fuel or with making sure the fuel source to their homes isn't disconnected because of unpaid bills.
Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services disburses funds to Community Action Kentucky, which in turn processes applications from families asking for assistance and then contracts vendors for delivery of fuel.
During the subsidy program, which began last Monday and will run through Dec. 12, eligible households will receive assistance in buying fuel oil.
The crisis component, available from Jan. 5 until March 31, or until funds are expended, whichever comes first, gives assistance to households about to have their service discontinued.
The maximum crisis benefit allowance for electricity and natural gas will be increased from $250 to $400, which will bring that benefit level more in line with the benefit avalable for bulk fuel.
Because of the increase in federal funding, more Kentucky families will be helped this winter, said Janie Miller, secretary for the cabinet.
She said the increase in the level of benefits people can receive means that families will be better able to afford the rising cost of fuel for their homes.
The Weatherization Program also received an increase in federal funding, Miller said.