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CAC gets emergency funding for cooling assistance

August 30, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Low-income families in Washington County can apply for financial assistance if their electric service has been terminated during this hot summer or they need an air conditioner.

The Community Action Council recently received $49,268 in emergency federal funding for cooling assistance, said Tina Barse, home energy coordinator.

For the air conditioners, the council will give priority to senior citizens, people with medical conditions or handicaps, and households with children age 5 or younger, Barse said.

The council has a list of 25 people that were on the Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless' waiting list for air conditioners. This summer the volunteer group gave air conditioners to 22 people who had a medically documented need for them, REACH Executive Director Terri Baker said. The air conditioners either were donated or money was donated to buy them, she said.

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The council has lined up a supply of air conditioners so eligible applicants don't have to hunt for them, Barse said. Council officials will deliver and install the air conditioners.

Temperatures have cooled this week, but people who suffered from the prolonged heat and couldn't afford an air conditioner should think ahead to next summer, Barse said.

Emergency cooling funds are not available every summer, but were distributed this year by the federal government after prolonged severe hot weather, Barse said.

The funding also will be used to help people whose electric service was terminated because of nonpayment, Barse said.

Officials with Hagerstown Light Department and Allegheny Energy said both utilities try to work with customers to prevent terminating service.

Terminating service is a last resort, Allegheny Energy spokesman Michael Grandillo said. Allegheny probably has terminated service for some county customers this summer, but Grandillo said the number wasn't available.

The emergency funding was part of a $1.5 million given to Maryland for cooling assistance, Barse said. The federal government distributed $100 million to 33 states and Washington, D.C., she said.

Although the council has until Oct. 31 to spend the emergency funding, people should apply as soon as possible, Barse said.

For information about eligibility and to make an appointment to apply for financial assistance, call Tina Barse at 301-797-4161. Home visits can be arranged for people who are homebound or handicapped, she said.

The council also has another program, the Electric Universal Services Program, that provides monthly credit all year on electric bills for eligible families, Barse said.

Last year that credit ranged from $7 to $60 a month, whereas this year it ranges from $11 to $93 a month, Barse said.

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