LIHEAP helps elderly, disabled with ‘summer cooling’

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/23/2018 12:30 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Anthony Pritchett, Human Services property management technician, loads a window air conditioning unit into the back of a truck. The Cherokee Nation’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program provides window units to qualifying Native Americans who are 60 and older or disabled. ARCHIVE
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps thousands of eligible Native Americans yearly with their heating, and in some cases, cooling sources.

Janet Ward, Family Assistance manager and LIHEAP coordinator, said “summer cooling” aid is eligible to those who are over 60 or disabled and received a winter heating payment.

“Our summer cooling program is only for the elderly and disabled,” she said. “When we say disabled, disabled are those who are actually receiving a disability check. So if they received LIHEAP during the winter from us, like in October or November, then they would be eligible for the summer cooling and the supplemental payment that we done this year.”

She added that payments would be sent to the clients’ electric providers.

“Summer cooling usually goes to their electric,” she said. “The elders and disabled that received the winter heating, they will have gotten a letter in the mail for them to return a mail showing who their electric vender is. And then they get that information off there with their account number, and then it will be mailed directly to the vendor.”

She said she hopes to see payments disbursed by the end of June or the first part of July.

Ward said in some cases LIHEAP provides window air conditioner units for qualifying Native Americans who are 60 and older or disabled.

“The AC units are apart of our LIHEAP program. It’s a small air conditioning unit that’s just for a one-room cooling station. They’re (for) the elderly and disabled, and they have to have a medical (statement) that stated that they have to have refrigerated air,” she said. “If they have a working window unit or central air already in their home they would not be eligible because we can’t supplement them.”

To receive a window unit, Ward said clients would not had to have received LIHEAP in the winter but would have to be LIHEAP-eligible. She said clients should visit a field office to see if they qualify.

Ward said during the winter LIHEAP helped 1,786 clients who were 60 and older or disabled and 232 who were under 60 and not disabled. She said numbers vary annually but tend to increase.

“Every year, usually, our numbers increase because people, you know, word-of-mouth gets around and they tell their family members. Then DHS (Department of Human Services) also sends people our way so that they can use their funding to help others, too,” she said.

Ward said she thinks the program is a “great” help to those needing the assistance it offers.

“Our elders, sometimes during the wintertime and then in the summertime, they try to cut back because of the high cost of their utility bills, and they don’t keep their houses warm as what they could,” she said. “If this program was not there we would probably have some elders that would keep their air conditioners turned down to where they really weren’t keeping cool or even in a safe environment. But because we’re able to give a summer cooling to the elderly and disabled then it helps defray the cost that they would have to pay out.”

Ward said new clients could apply for LIHEAP later this year.

“We’ll open it back up to the elderly and disabled in October or November,” she said. “So if they received LIHEAP from us they will get a letter in the mail stating what time their appointment is and the location. Then the new ones, they will just need to call into the office, and then we can let them know which dates because we go to different field offices…so we have to schedule ahead of time so they will have to get with us to determine where they would need to go to make their application if they didn’t get it last year.”

LIHEAP is available to citizens of federally recognized tribes living within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction and qualify for the benefits.

Benefits are calculated based on the number of people living in a household, the amount of income for those over 18 years old and the home’s energy source. Applicants who are 60 and older or disabled will be given top priority.

To apply, a client must provide a Social Security card, Certificate Degree of Indian Blood card, residence verification, heating utility account verification, proof of income of all household members 18 and older and proof of disability if trying to participant in the program under that category.

For more information, call 918-453-5327 or email janet-ward@cherokee.org.

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