The struggle to pay one's utility bill can persist regardless of the weather, but keeping it paid is particularly crucial during summer and winter months. To that end, a local organization is offering assistance to eligible residents in Limestone County.

Community Action Partnership of Huntsville-Madison and Limestone Counties is now scheduling appointments to meet with low-income individuals and families about help with heating costs through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. Delores Mastin, executive director of CAPHMLC, said all it takes is a call 256-907-1550 or a visit to caa-htsval.org to get started.

CAPHMLC originally opened appointments for first-time clients only as part of a grant they were awarded. As of Feb. 12, appointments were open for elderly or disabled individuals and households with children under 18. Soon, the appointments will open for all other groups.

"We did not see as many new clients as thought," Mastin said. However, after the second opening, "we've been booked."

She said it took about half an hour after their scheduler opened for it to fill with applicants, and they've had to dedicate staff to review more than 100 applicants to get their payments processed. The payments go directly to the utility company, not the client.

Households that were affected by COVID-19 could receive greater help.

"We do have some special funding right now so if you can prove you were affected by COVID, you could possibly be awarded a larger amount (to be) added to your utilities," Mastin said.

It doesn't have to be a recent effect, either. Mastin explained the eligibility window for the COVID-19 funding started March 13, 2020.

When potential clients speak with a worker, they can "let the worker know, 'hey, I was affected,' and the worker already knows which funding to do the intake on," Mastin said.

To confirm eligibility, all individuals must provide the following paperwork: a current utility bill, proof of income for the previous month, valid ID and a Social Security card for each member of the household. While CAPHMLC serves Limestone and Madison counties, there is a location in Athens that focuses on Limestone County residents, Mastin said.

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