LIHEAP aids low-income elderly, disabled Natives

BY STAFF REPORTS
09/06/2019 08:15 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
In this file photo, Cherokee Nation Human Services staff members deliver a wood stove to a CN citizen’s home as part of the tribe’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps low-income elderly and disabled Native Americans annually with winter heating and summer cooling costs.

Family Assistance Manager Janet Ward said summer cooling funds are for elders 60 years and older and for disabled people who received LIHEAP assistance during the winter. Payments are made directly to electricity sources.

“We will send out an update form for them just to fill out for their electric company just to make sure that’s good. We usually make our payment about the end of July, first part of August,” she said.

Family Assistance also has an air conditioner loan program for those in need of refrigerated air.

“We have an air conditioner loaner program that if someone has a medical condition and requires that they have refrigerated air…they cannot have a working central heat and air or an air conditioner already in their home. We can’t supplement it,” Ward said.

She said air conditioner program applicants must be completely without any type of cooling source and meet LIHEAP eligibility.

To qualify for LIHEAP, participants must be at the national poverty level plus 50 percent. For example, a family of one must not make more than $18,210 annually for fiscal year 2019.

Ward said LIHEAP is funded through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and funding can change year to year, depending on how much the federal government funds the block grant distributed to Oklahoma tribes. Payment rates for heating and cooling sources through the CN’s LIHEAP for the elderly and disabled can change yearly.

This past winter, Ward said the program helped more than 2,076 participants with payments to their heating vendors. This included the elderly, disabled and non-elderly and non-disabled participants who met LIHEAP requirements.

“Regular winter LIHEAP, we do that in October and November for the elderly and disabled, and then in December we open it up to everyone else,” Ward said. “There are families, especially when you talk about the elderly and disabled people who are on a fixed income, if they did not have LIHEAP to help them then they would have to be making the choice between whether to stay warm or cool, or food, or a lot of times to pay their medical expenses.”

She said participants have been “grateful” for the program.

“To be truthful, there would be a lot of our elders who would be really hot during the summer time and cold during the winter because they would be trying to conserve just as much as they could. It just gives them a kind of jumpstart and keeps them going and carries them through for a little while. It does cut down on what portion they would have to pay,” Ward said.

The required documents to apply for LIHEAP include a tribal citizenship card from a federally recognized tribe, Social Security card, verification of household income (includes all household members and income such as social security, disability, working income and child support) and utility bill of main heating source to verify vendor.

Participants must live in the CN jurisdiction and bring a document to verify their 911 addresses.

Ward said we will be doing LIHEAP a little different this year. The elderly and disabled who previously received LIHEAP and are 69 years and younger will be mailed out applications for them to complete and turn back in to the office for processing. The elderly and disabled who are 70 years and above will be scheduled appointments to come in and make an application. For information, call 918-453-5327.

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