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Help with heating bills begins Monday

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By Lou Elliott Jones

First there was the cold, so bitter heaters worked continuously for a week.

Now, as electric bills hit the mailboxes, folks are feeling the heat of an economic squeeze.

Telephones are working overtime at Central Florida Electric Cooperative, Progress Energy and local agencies that help folks who cannot afford the cost of staying warm.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which already sent states $3.8 billion for its Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), has sent extra contingency funds, including $17.2 million to agencies in Florida that help folks meet their utility bills.

The federal funds help eligible families pay for home heating, cooling, and other energy costs, as well as helping to weatherize eligible families’ homes. In recent years, more than 6 million low-income households across the country have received assistance under LIHEAP.

In Levy County the Central Florida Community Action Agency handles applications for the money. The agency which has an office in Chiefland will start taking calls at 8 a.m. Monday, Feb. 1 at (352) 493-1732 and in Williston at (352) 528-1249 to set appointments for applicants.

The money is available to individuals

• With income of 150 percent of the poverty level guidelines

• Have a delinquent account and are facing cutoff of service, and

• Who have not received utility payment help from the program for one year and one day.

The program will pay up to $600 per applicant.

Applicants should also first try working out a payment arrangement with their utility company.

For Progress Energy customers concerned about paying an extremely high bill, a spokeswoman said they can contact Progress Energy at 800.700.8744 for information on payment programs. Representatives are available to help customers with payment options to keep their accounts in good standing and avoid disconnection.

Customers of Central Florida Electric Cooperative can call Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at (352) 493-2511 for Chiefland and (352) 498-7322 for Cross City.  Customers can also call the Inglis office at (352) 447-3553  Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except during the lunch break.