SHELBY CO., Tenn. (localmemphis.com) — Millions of dollars are up for grabs for low-income people struggling to keep their lights on and the organization behind it said it’s having a hard time getting rid of all that money.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has a lot of money it needs to distribute, $10 million to be exact. That’s due to a drastic increase in grant funding the organization received.
LIHEAP doubled its funding from $9 million to $19 million for the year, but they have to give it out by the end of September.
The organization knows there are a lot of people in Shelby County that would qualify for assistance and are in need but the problem is, not enough people know about it, LIHEAP Supervisor Yulonda Rhodes said.
“Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help. We are wanting people to know that the funds are available. It’s unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know that this agency exists. So, knowing that, someone’s there to help, when I need them, is just so important,“ Rhodes said.
LIHEAP helps pay utility bills for low-income families. The only requirement for eligibility is that the resident must be living at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Level. A family of four would need to be $38,625, LIHEAP used as an example.
Depending on income and family size, people can receive up to $650.
In a normal year, LIHEAP assists 16,000 families. The increased financial support means they stand a chance to double that.
Supervisor for LIHEAP, Yulonda Rhodes, said it’s important for people to know that they don’t have to wait for a cut off notice to reach out for help.
“We have plenty of money that we are trying to assist our customers with and sometimes it may be embarrassing. Sometimes people don’t want to share that information. Especially our elderly who would pay their bill before they buy their medicine,“ Rhodes said.
LIHEAP is funded by the Tennessee Housing Development Association.
A phone hotline is set up by LIHEAP for those interested in scheduling an appointment for assistance at 901-222-4299. The hotline opens every Monday at 8 a.m.
Rhodes said the line can be busy, and she urges patience when calling.