- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Despite a winter with periods of bitter cold and heavy snow, use of a federal program that helps pay utility bills has declined in Missouri.

Applications for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, are down 5 percent statewide from last winter, data shows.

This year, 138,260 people have applied for the assistance, said Angela Hirsch, director of community services for the Central Missouri Community Action. That figure compares with 145,605 households last year, said Rebecca Woelfel, spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services.

The program provides up to $800 in emergencies to avoid utility shutoffs and general energy assistance, with awards based on household size, household income and the type of fuel used, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1fd5MCZ ). To qualify, a family must have an income of 135 percent or less of the federal poverty guideline, which is $2,649 a month for a family of four.

Part of the decline could be attributed to use of weatherization programs and a portion could be because of the economic recovery, Hirsch said.

She said less than 10 percent of applicants seek the assistance for more than two years in a row.

“We are seeing with our families that people are getting back to work, and they may not be making as much as they did, but they do have some income,” Hirsch said.

Applications fell 3.1 percent in the eight-county region served by Central Missouri Community Action, from 5,794 last winter to 5,613 households this winter.

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, https://www.columbiatribune.com


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