Students eligible for price cut

By Reggie Brown

With substantial increases in the cost of natural gas and winter lurking around the corner, many Americans will be in for a shock when they receive heating and energy bills.

Customers who have trouble coming up with the additional money to pay these bills will have assistance available.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program was implemented in the late 1970s because people with lower incomes had trouble paying for the increased cost of utilities.

The cost of energy is expected to jump this year.

“The Department of Energy is estimating that the cost of energy will be 70 percent greater this year than it was last year,” said Tom Kallay, community relations director for Nicor Gas.

Students eligible

Financially-strapped college students could be glad to hear LIHEAP assistance is available to them.

“As long as a student is paying utilities and they are not living in someone else’s household, they can apply,” said Ellen Sonntag, executive director for LIHEAP.

“Students are eligible for assistance because the service is solely based on income,” said Nancy Kane-Richards, assistant director for LIHEAP. “We strongly encourage students to apply for assistance.”

For 30 days prior to applying for services, one person cannot gross more than $1,196, two people more than $1,604, three people more than $2,012, and four people cannot gross more than $2,420.

An increase in natural gas costs and lower supply of gas are partially to blame for the skyrocketing prices of energy.

“The increase in natural gas prices is a result of many things,” Kallay said. “Production, the weather and utility companies using more natural gas for electricity are reasons that prices are so high. The price of natural gas depends on demand and right now the supply is low.”

LIHEAP eligibility

“Eligibility is based on the 30-day income prior to applying for our services,” said Kane-Richards, assistant director for LIHEAP. “We use income as a basis for ruling eligibility.”

The amount of assistance a person can receive depends upon two factors.

“We base the amount of assistance we give on the number of people living in the household and how much they earn,” Kane-Richards said.

LIHEAP funds come from a host of different foundations

“The funding comes from the federal health and human services department,” said Sonntag. “Additional funding comes from a surcharge on people’s utility bills that are administered through the state of Illinois.”

The LIHEAP office that services DeKalb is located in Geneva at 1035 E. State St. To make an appointment call 815-758-3835. Bring a Social Security card with gas and electric bills, and proof of income from all members of the household for 30 days prior to the appointment.