By LaTina Emerson, The Shopper Deals

When temperatures get cooler outside, many people simply turn up the heat in their homes. However, for senior citizens and individuals with limited incomes, cool weather can bring stress and worry about how heating bills will be paid.

Several programs are available to assist local residents:

LIHEAP

A federally-funded program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), is assisting low-income, elderly and disabled Georgians with their heating bills by making direct payments to home energy providers.

Starting Nov. 1, Georgia seniors who are 65 and older can apply to LIHEAP for heating assistance. Other eligible individuals and families can apply starting Dec. 1.

The funds will be administered on a first come, first served basis through local Community Action Agencies until funding is no longer available. Last year, the average customer received between $310 and $350 in assistance with their heating bills, according to a press release issued by the Division of Family and Children Services.

To qualify, a household’s total annual income must be less than or equal to 60 percent of the poverty guidelines that are in effect. For a household of one, the income threshold is $22,045. For a household of five, the income threshold is $49,178.

Those interested must apply through their local Community Action Agency, which can be found by visiting http://www.georgiacaa.org. Coweta County residents can apply for LIHEAP by calling the Social Services Center, 53 Savannah St. in Newnan, at 770-253-3864.

Applicants must bring the following information to apply for heating assistance:

• The most recent heating bill or statement of service from their heating provider.
• The Social Security numbers for each member of the household.
• Proof of citizenship for each member of the household.
• Proof of income for the last 30 days for each adult member of the household. This can include, but isn’t limited to, a paycheck stub or public assistance verification letter.
• Verification of Social Security or unemployment benefits for all applicable household members.

For more information about the LIHEAP program, contact the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services at 404-657-3426.

Coweta-Fayette EMC Senior Assistance Programs

Coweta-Fayette EMC offers several programs to assist senior citizens with their electric bills, including a special billing cycle and senior citizen discounts.

Senior Billing Cycle: Coweta-Fayette EMC has a special billing cycle for senior customers that extends the payment due date to the first of the month and allows for the timing of Social Security checks.

Senior Citizen Discount: Seniors who meet certain requirements are eligible for a $6.50 waiver off the monthly service charge. To qualify, customers must be 65 or older with a total household income of $15,000 or less per year. In addition, the electric service account must be at the senior’s primary residence, individually metered and in the senior’s name. Proof of income is required.

Levelized Billing: Each month, seniors pay the average of their bills from the past 13 months, rather than paying high bills during some months and low bills during others. This helps seniors fit their power bill into their budget.

Bank Draft: Using bank draft to automatically pay their power bill each month makes things easy for seniors. With bank draft, seniors don’t have to remember their bill’s due date, travel to pay their bill or mail in a payment.

*To take advantage of these payment methods, the account must have a zero balance. There is no extra charge for these payment options.

**If you’re not a Coweta-Fayette EMC customer, check with your service provider about rate plan options (including special rates for seniors) and senior discounts. Georgia Power, Gas South, SCANA Energy and Georgia Natural Gas offer these options for customers. Georgia Power, SCANA Energy and Georgia Natural Gas offer senior discounts, and Gas South offers discounts to veterans and active military personnel.

Weatherization Assistance Program

Individuals with low to moderate income, particularly the elderly and handicapped, might also qualify for assistance to weather-proof their home through the Community Action for Improvement Inc. Weatherization Assistance Program. The program is designed to make homes more energy efficient and help people save hundreds of dollars per year on their energy bills, with average savings of 30 percent.

Homes that are weatherized require less energy to heat and cool. For qualified homes, the Weatherization Assistance Program will complete the following energy-conservation measures:

• Perform a blower door test to check for air leaks
• Seal your house to reduce air leaks
• Add insulation where necessary
• Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs
• Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors where necessary
• Install weather stripping and caulk where necessary

The Weatherization Assistance Program serves Coweta, Carroll, Douglas, Harris, Heard, Meriwether, Muscogee and Troup counties. To apply, contact Trish Flowers at 706-884-5888 or tflowers@cafi-ga.org.

For more information, visit http://www.cafi-ga.org/weatherization.html.

Free Energy Audits

Coweta-Fayette EMC offers free energy audits to customers. To set up an appointment, contact Vicki Hammond of Coweta-Fayette EMC’s Residential Marketing & Energy Services department at 678-423-6830 or Vichammond@utility.org.

Here are some tips from Coweta-Fayette EMC to make your home energy efficient:

• Keep freezers full.  Save old milk cartons or jugs, fill them with water and freeze them.  A full freezer uses less energy.
• Close shades and drapes during the day to keep heat out in the summer.
• Open shades and drapes during the day to catch free solar heat in the winter.
• Set thermostats to 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
• Only do full loads of laundry.
• Keep filters changed.  Check filters monthly and change them when needed.
• Replace any light bulb that burns more than one hour per day with its equivalent LED bulb.