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More seek heating assistance in Panhandle

December 02, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- New evidence that the Eastern Panhandle's economy has been slumping showed up this week at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources offices off Mid-Atlantic Parkway north of Martinsburg.

More than 250 people submitted applications there Monday and Tuesday for government assistance with home-heating bills, according to Kathyrn Boylan, a community services manager for the agency.

"The Eastern Panhandle has really taken a hard hit because of the economy," Boylan said.

State residents have until Dec. 12 to apply for Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) assistance at any DHHR office. To apply, individuals must have documentation verifying their address, household income and a copy of their utility bill or some other document demonstrating monthly cost. Applications will be accepted at the Mid-Atlantic Parkway office between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

DHHR offices off Regal Court in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and Willow Springs Drive in Charles Town, W.Va., also can process walk-in applications.

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Boylan estimated the 267 applications received in the first two days of the program's open enrollment period represented a 50 percent increase from 2007.

Last winter, 1,616 households in Berkeley County received a total of $380,407 in assistance from the LIEAP program, according to figures released by DHHR Program Manager Dan Hartwell.

In Jefferson County, 726 households received $170,224.

Hartwell said the state expects to be able to provide up to $800 per household this year, thanks to a near doubling of federal funding channeled to the state through a block grant and administered by DHHR's Bureau for Children and Families. The state had a $500 cap in place last year, Hartwell said.

Nearly 78,000 households received assistance last year and Hartwell estimated 64,000 applications were mailed this year to residents who previously applied.

While fuel oil is a prominent energy source for Eastern Panhandle households, Boylan said she was surprised by how many people still use wood. Regardless, the assistance program is available for practically any type of energy costs, Boylan said.




More information



On the Web: More information about LIEAP, including application instructions for the program, is available at www.wvdhhr.org.

By phone: To reach DHHR offices in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, call 304-258-1350 for Berkeley Springs; 304-724-2600 for Charles Town; and 304-267-0100 for Martinsburg.

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