Assistance with winter heating bills available through MICA

Registration for general applications begins Nov. 1

With overnight temperatures in the next several days hovering at or below freezing, many Central Iowans will be turning on their furnaces for what may be the first time in the season. But many low-income folks will not be able to afford their heating bills this year — and that is where LIHEAP comes in.

Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc. (MICA) has operated the LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) for several decades.

“The program began [for this year] with certain automatically eligible people, a month ago, and will be open for general applications beginning Nov. 1,” said Arlene McAtee, who serves as MICA’s executive director. “We accept applications at our Family Development Centers in Hardin, Marshall, Poweshiek, Story and Tama counties.”

Energy assistance grants, for which MICA applies, go to fund the program.

“We make a one-time payment to your heating vendor,” said MICA Family Development Center Manager Danielle Wonderly. “If heating is included in your rent, then the funds are sent directly to you to pay instead. For some folks, this may cover the bills for the whole season, or for a few months.”

She noted that this is the first year clients only need to provide proof of income for the last 30 days, and not 90 days as in years past.

“The state made this change so we could get more people into the program and approved,” Wonderly said.

Potential applicants must also provide Social Security card information for everyone in the household, as well as a copy of the most recent heat/electric bill. Eligibility is based on these factors: income, size of household, type of dwelling/residence, and having young children, elderly, or anyone disabled in the home.

An example of a household that would qualify for services would be a family of four having an income of $43,050 a year or below.

“You have to be at 175 percent of federal poverty guidelines or below to qualify,” Wonderly said. “LIHEAP also provides a ‘moratorium’ that is up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which means even if you don’t qualify for the funding, you cannot be cut off from electricity from Nov. 1-April 1 because of an inability to pay your bills.”

The number of Marshall County residents that were assisted by LIHEAP last year was 1,346 people. Those who applied for this funding previously and were turned down, are encouraged to reapply to see if they may now qualify.

“There are people out there that could be eligible and don’t know it, so apply anyway. Come in or call us. It’s worth it,” Wonderly said.

MICA still has some funding to assist people who have experienced disconnected electric services from a past due account.

“Those funds do change a lot based on how many people we help each day/week, but I just encourage all to call us,” Wonderly added. “You can apply now until April 30 for assistance.”

Locally, applicants should apply at MICA’s Family Development Center, located at 6 S. 2nd St. in Marshalltown. It is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and can be reached at: 641-753-5523. MICA’s main office, located at 1001 S. 18th Ave, may be reached at: 641-752-7162, and it too can provide assistance.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com