Cooling Assistance Available for Vulnerable, Sweltering Ohioans
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The sweltering heat in Ohio is underscoring the importance of cooling assistance for vulnerable populations. Low-income Ohioans with a documented medical condition or those 60 years of age and older can ask for help to stay cool through the Summer Crisis Program.
Michele Lucas, the community services director of HARCATUS Community Action in Northeast Ohio, explains that high temperatures and humidity can pose serious health risks.
"Somebody with a breathing condition, or someone who is getting up in years, their body can overheat and they can become hypothermic and possibly pass out," she says. "Oh, it's just difficult to imagine what the outcome could be if that utility is shut off."
A disconnect notice is not required, and income-eligible residents can receive assistance paying an unpaid electric bill - $300 for a regulated utility and $500 for an unregulated utility.
The Ohio Development Agency has processed more than 5,500 applications since the Summer Crisis Program started July first. It runs through August 31.
The Summer Crisis Program is part of the Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, which also offers emergency heating assistance in the winter.
President Trump's budget plan calls for HEAP to be eliminated, as some claim the program suffers from fraud. But Lucas says eligibility guidelines are strict and newer technology makes it difficult to take advantage.
"I can tell if somebody in Toledo is trying to receive assistance in New Philadelphia within minutes," she adds. "And we can stop a lot of the kind of fraud that may have been going on."
While the president reportedly said HEAP has not performed strongly, Lucas notes many elected leaders in Congress disagree.
"We've had some very compassionate people representing us in Washington D.C.," she notes. "And quite honestly, the threats have been there every year and we have always managed to come through, sometimes with more money."
She says emergency cooling and heating assistance helps struggling Ohioans avoid making choices between paying for food, medication or a utility bill.