Applicants on rise for cooling assistance program

Bill Nachman - Posted on Jul 08, 2010 - 04:55 PM

Tough economic times mean more people are seeking cooling relief this year from the Gloucester County Department of Social Services, benefit program supervisor Tamara Bishop said.

Fifty-three people signed up for cooling assistance on the first day applications were being accepted in mid-June, Bishop said, and applications continue to be received. The program, which runs from June 15 to Aug. 16, can pay a one-time relief payment of $100 per applicant household, Bishop said.

In certain cases, the program can pay security deposits for electricity to operate cooling equipment, special assistance that can be issued once in an applicant’s lifetime. Also, there are cases where an applicant might receive funds for repair of a central air conditioning system or heat pump, purchase a whole-house fan (including ceiling or attic fans), and for the purchase and installation of one window air conditioner unit for households without one that works.

Bishop said that because of a tight economy, many new persons are applying for cooling assistance this year.

To qualify for assistance, the maximum gross monthly income for a one-person household is $1,174 before taxes, a release said, while the maximum gross for a household of four is $2,389.

Also, the household must have a vulnerable person living in it. The vulnerable population is described as over the age of 60, under the age of six, or declared disabled by the federal Social Security Administration or the state of Virginia.

However, the cooling assistance program has taken a major hit because of federal cutbacks, Bishop said, as applicants were able to receive up to $475 in relief last summer.

Food stamps

In other social services news, Bishop said that there are many families that need assistance, yet there are still those that are abusing the system.

According to Bishop, some people don’t accurately report their income or other means of monetary assistance. She said this often leads to other members of the community becoming upset because they believe people who shouldn’t receive the benefits are getting them and possibly abusing the system.

Some people report food stamp fraud, but fail to provide adequate information about who is committing the fraud, where the fraud took place, and what time the incident occurred. Fraud might entail somebody not receiving assistance paying a small amount of cash for the food relief and the person for whom the relief was intended might get pocket money to purchase alcohol or cigarettes not covered under the food assistance program.

For more information about these programs, call 693-1275.