HEAP Advocates Helping Hundreds by Phone

posted 5/20/20 -- LCCAA’s Winter Crisis and HEAP programs were extended by the State of Ohio and federal Department of Energy due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Emergency Services Coordinator Darnella Higginbotham praised her staff of advocates for processing applications remotely since mid-March.

“They are doing such a phenomenal job with working remotely and servicing our clients,” she said. “We work as a team and stand by our mission to serve Lorain County residents in need.”

From March 16th through May 1st, advocates conducted 625 phone interviews. Of those, 335 of were processed to completion. The others either cancelled after an initial interview or did not follow through with required documentation.

Since the last week of March when LCCAA installed a secure drop box for documents, 88 clients have used it. Higginbotham also noted 64 new clients who have never before applied for assistance.

“This shows that the word is getting out there and the demand for help is increasing with households that have never applied before the pandemic,” she said.

Clients have also been very appreciative of the staff, Higginbotham added.

“You have been so helpful and patient,” one client wrote to Advocate Rupert Eldemire. “We need more people like you.”

HEAP applications are still being taken through June 1, Higginbotham noted. And applications or renewals for the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) are taken year-round. A limited amount of fuel funds remains available for First Energy customers as well.

To be eligible for Winter Crisis or HEAP help, residents must live at or below 175% of the federal poverty line. Eligibility for PIPP begins at or below 150% of the federal poverty line. For fuel funds, residents must live at or below 200% of the FPL. Payments from the CARES act or COVID-19 stimulus do not count as income for these programs.

Online applications are encouraged and can be made at www.energyhelp.ohio.gov. Residents can also call 1-855-806-9620 or click here to make an appointment, which will be conducted by phone.