Thousands find relief with energy assistance program

Thermostat installed by Evan Storlie, of Mercurio's Heating and Air Conditioning in Tacoma, Wash., on Aug. 19, 2010. (Kevin P. Casey/AP Images for American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — If you need help paying your utility bills, you can apply for help. It’s part of a federal program.

A single mother of two, Emma Reynoso, said it’s so tough making ends meet. It’s often hard for her to afford the utility bills, especially as it gets colder.

Reynoso said, “With kids, you have to always keep it on. You can’t budge at that. It’s very important to keep the house warm, so bills go up higher.”

She said her average monthly bill is $225, but as the temperature drops, Reynoso said that “it can get up to $300-$400s, living in a house.”

Now, she’s in danger of having her gas disconnected, which means no heat.

Reynoso said, “It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking. It’s stressful. It worries you a lot.”

This is where United Way of Central Indiana comes in. They’re part of a statewide network of agencies that helps distribute money for the federal-state Energy Assistance Program. It’s in line with Indiana’s Housing and Community Development Authority and the Federal Low Income Energy Assistance Program.

Mary Jones, director of Basic Needs for the United Way of Central Indiana, said, “It is very important. During the time of the year when heating costs can be very high, this helps families be able to meet their heating burden and still be able to afford their rent and food and all the other things that happen in life.”

The Energy Assistance Program, which opened Wednesday, is designed to help low-income Hoosiers who are at 150 percent of the federal poverty level or below.

In Marion County, this United Way has served more than 18,000 families via the Energy Assistance Program.

Jones said, “It assists them with a one-time payment to the utility company to help them meet their heating needs during the winter.”

The single mom, Reynoso, said, “That would be awesome. That would help a lot.”

Reynoso said she’s going to sign up Thursday night.

Statewide, you can call 211 for  help with this.

Brad Meadows, marketing and communications director for the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, said the program concludes May 18.

He added, “Energy assistance is determined on income. Homeowners and renters, even renters with utilities included in rent, may be eligible. Anyone wishing to apply should contact the local service provider.”

According to Meadows, local service providers are listed by county here. Meadows said applications are accepted in person or through mail.

For a filable application, or to download and print the application, click here.

According to Meadows, there are also several other documents that may need to be completed your application. Some of these common documents, according to Meadows, are the Landlord Affidavit, the DWD Work release and the Zero Income Affidavit. Meadows said other documents may also be necessary. Downloaded applications and documents should be sent by mail to the local service provider. Instructions on how to fill out the application can be found here.

For more information in Indianapolis Energy Assistance Program, go to http://indyeap.org/.