Lack of funds delays start of Snohomish County energy assistance program
The Energy Assistance Program will not begin operations until sometime in January due to the uncertainty of federal funding, officials say.
The program, which usually begins accepting applications for assistance at the beginning of December, is expecting at least a 35 percent reduction in funding, and there is a possibility of a greater funding cutback.
This means that some 2,000 fewer Snohomish County households will receive assistance with their winter heat bills by the energy assistance program.
"It is extremely important that low-income households work out payment arrangements with their utility so they do not get disconnected," said Maureen Linehan, manager of the Snohomish County Energy Assistance Program.
A state law, the "Winter Utility Shut-off Moratorium," protects low-income households from having their electricity or natural gas shut off between Nov. 15 and March 15 IF the household enters into special payment arrangements with the utility and keeps those arrangements.
Customers may get disconnected if they do not make the moratorium payment arrangement. Approximately 300 households were assisted last December, Linehan said.
There are a limited number of other resources available to help during November and December until the Energy Assistance Program begins operations: Project Pride, operated by The American Red Cross, assists with electric bills; and the Salvation Army's Warm Neighbors Fund helps with natural gas bills. Both of these programs have seen a drastic drop in the donations upon which they rely.
This winter, elderly, disabled, and families with young children may go without heat. The community can help by making donations earmarked for utility assistance to either American Red Cross or Salvation Army.
For more information, contact the Energy Assistance Program at 259-5185, Project Pride at 252-4103, or the Salvation Army at 259-8129.