Centre Daily Times (Pennsylvania), July 16, 2008: Feeling heat of high costs
By Anne Danahy
BELLEFONTE The combination of high prices for gasoline, food and shelter, with high heating costs ahead, are making for an extremely difficult year for many families, according to the county’s director of Adult Services.
Bob Ott, speaking at Tuesday۪s Board of Commissioners meeting, talked about the steps service providers are taking now to prepare for the winter and what residents can do too.
“We have never seen it like this at all,” said Ott of his 30 years in public service. “All of these (factors) occurring simultaneously, with the heating season lurking in the background, is something we۪ve never faced.”
Ott said he and other service providers are trying to encourage the public to begin adopting a mindset of fuel conservation. He said they۪re also encouraging residents to check in on neighbors, particularly senior citizens, during the cold months.
“We really need to have neighbors looking out for neighbors,” Ott said.
Commissioner Steve Dershem asked Ott if there were any strategies that can be used to prepare for the winter۪s high heating costs.
“We know what۪s coming this winter,” Dershem said. “We know the need is going to be massive.”
Ott urged the public to support a U.S. Senate bill that would increase funding for LIHEAP Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Last year, the average cash award was $230 and the crisis grants started at $300 and later increased to as much as $800. Ott noted that when fuel prices are $4.70 a gallon, $300 is not enough for a minimum fuel delivery of 100 gallons.
He said he recently spoke with a single mother who received a cost estimate for a heating oil company۪s budget plan that allows residents to pay a set monthly amount, then pay off any costs above that during the remainder of the year. Under the budget plan last winter, she paid about $200 a month during the winter for heating oil. Ott said the company۪s estimate for this year is $475 a month, if the budget program is available.
Ott said that under Senate Bill 3186, “The Warm in Winter and Cool in Summer Act,” Pennsylvania would receive $210 million for LIHEAP, an $87 million increase in funding.
LIHEAP is available to people who earn up to 150 percent of the poverty level, or $15,600 for one person and up to $31,800 for a four-person household.
“We۪re hoping for a real push to increase that funding stream,” Ott said.
Ott said he is particularly concerned about people whose income is between 150 percent and 200 percent of the poverty level and have to turn to local services for help.
For information on LIHEAP, call county Adult Services at 355-6768.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648.