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Federal program, administered by the county, helps homeowners and renters pay their heating bills.

It's February. Cold has descended upon western Oregon and the pandemic is showing no sign of abating. Homeowners and renters, many now unemployed due to the ongoing health crisis, are finding it difficult to heat their homes, but a popular government program aims to help.PMG FILE PHOTO - The LIHEAP program will award more than $407,000 to an expected 1,200 homes in Yamhill County to aid in paying for heating this year.

The Department of Health and Human Services' Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has more than $407,438 in available for bill assistance in Yamhill County. An estimated 1,190 households are expected to avail themselves of that assistance this year, a jump from 1,035 in 2020. The average one-time annual payment is $341, the program is expected to continue through September and the payments are made directly to the home's heat provider.

Pre-screening for households containing seniors and disabled folks occurred in the fall. In early December, according to a press release, Health and Human Services (HHS) began accepting requests and referrals from the general public and adding them to a referral list. On a weekly basis the department is mailing application packets to some applicants on the list and will continue until the funds are exhausted. More than 500 households have been approved for assistance as of early February.

The assistance will pay regardless of heating sources, whether it's electrical, propane, natural gas, heating oil, wood pellets or firewood. The grants can also be used for emergency heating system repairs and replacement if they meet program requirements.

The county program is funded by the federal government after Congress determined there have been "dramatic increases in home energy expenses and that these costs impose a disproportionately larger burden on fixed-income, low-income and lower-to-middle-income households," the release said. "The legislation recognizes that adequate home heating is a necessary aspect of shelter and that deficiencies in home heating pose a threat to life, health and/or safety."

Eligibility for the program is set by the federal government and is determined by recently updated income limits: $2,317 for an individual, $3,030 for a couple, $3,743 for a family of three, $4,456 for a family of four, $5,169 for a family of five, $5,882 for a family of six, $6,015 for a family of seven and $6,149 for a family of eight. Families with more than eight members are encouraged to contact Yamhill County Action Partnership for assistance.

Applicants may be referred by social service agencies or apply directly via a LIHEAP referral request by visiting the YCAP website at yamhillcap.org/energy or calling YCAP's energy assistance main line at 503-472-0457, Ext. 1480 or 1-855-216-5289, Ext. 1480.


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