Western Community Action, which serves a five-county area including Redwood County, provides grants to families to help pay for the costs of fuel for the furnace.


“We are currently accepting applications for energy assistance,”?said Rachel Bagley, the energy assistance program manager for WCA.


 


As temperatures continue to drop, more and more homeowners are turning on their furnaces recognizing in many cases they have no idea how they are going to afford keeping the heat on this year.

For those who may be struggling to finance the cost of heat for their home, there is an answer – energy assistance from Western Community Action (WCA).

WCA, which serves a five-county area including Redwood County, provides grants to families to help pay for the costs of fuel for the furnace.

“We are currently accepting applications for energy assistance,”?said Rachel Bagley, the energy assistance program manager for WCA.

Those applications have begin coming in, and at this point Bagley said she has seen a 15 percent increase in the number of applications over the same time one year ago.

During the 2008-09 winter season, the number of applications increased 14 percent over the year prior. Bagley said she anticipates a significantly higher number of applicants this season, especially because of the economy and the number of people without jobs right now.

The good news is there is still money available, and Bagley said funds typically re-main available through May. However, those who want to receive assistance should ap-ply as soon as possible.

The grants offered range from $100 up to a maximum of $1,400, said Bagley, adding the average grant is $600.

Eligibility is based on income guidelines es-tablished by the federal government.

As an example, Bagley said a family of four can’t have an annual income greater than $41,722 to qualify for the funding.

The rule of thumb for eligibility is 50 percent of the median income at the state based on the number of people in the household.

While the demand is up, Bagley said she has heard reports stating the cost of most fuels is going to remain stable for the winter, with the exception of fuel oil. The price for that type is expected to increase this season.

Bagley said there are some funds available for electric bills for those who use electric heat, too.

A number of people purchased small electric heaters for their homes thinking it would save them money, said Bagley. While it did save on the fuel costs, the electric bills went up dramatically.

Bagley encouraged everyone who might qualify to apply, adding senior citizens on fixed incomes especially should consider filling out an application.

In addition to energy assistance, Bagley said there are weatherization grants for homes that help address furnace needs or simple repairs on homes, such as insulation improvements. For more info, visit www.wcainc.org.