ASHE COUNTY — As temperatures continue to drop, energy bills steadily increase each month as residents of Ashe County seek refuge indoors from the frigid weather. A number of programs are available through the Ashe County Department of Social Services to assist with those costs.

The Crisis Intervention Program, which DSS began approving applications for on Nov. 19, provides financial help to households who are in a heating or cooling related emergency. Eligibility requirements are based on household composition and income. According to DSS, the income limit is 150 percent of the federal poverty level. The household must be in a heating or cooling related emergency and contain a U.S. citizen or other eligible member in order to qualify for assistance, Ashe County DSS said in a statement.

Applicants must provide verification of all household income and should bring the four most recent check stubs for all employed household members when they come into the office to apply. Due to changes in state energy policy, applications cannot be approved without this information, according to Ashe County DSS.

The federally-funded Low Income Energy Assistance Program assists families with a one-time vendor payment to help pay their heating bills. With an income limit of 130 percent of the federal poverty level, applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements based on household composition and income to qualify for assistance.

According to DSS, households must also be responsible for their own heating bills and cannot have resources totaling more than $2,250. The household must also include a U.S. citizen or other eligible member.

To apply for the LIEAP program, applicants can visit the Ashe County DSS office or have a representative apply on their behalf. When applying, applicants will need to know identifying information for all household members including name, date of birth and social security numbers.

Applicants will also need to bring verification of income for all household members for the month prior to the month of application and any information about savings accounts, checking accounts, property, stocks, bonds and other assets that anyone in the household may have, according to DSS.

During the month of December, priority will be given to households containing a person age 60 or older or disabled persons receiving a service through the Division of Aging and Adult Services. Applications will only be taken for those meeting the specified criteria during the month of December, according to DSS.

The LIEAP program begins Dec. 2 and will open to all applicants on Jan. 2. Applications will be taken through March or until funds are exhausted, according to DSS.

In their statement, DSS said that applicants must provide the vendor name and account number for their heating source, as well as their electric account number, adding that applications cannot be processed without that information.

Applications will be taken at the Ashe County Courthouse, 150 Government Circle in Jefferson. For more information regarding these programs, contact the Department of Social Services at (336) 846-5644.

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