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State to open heating crisis center in Harrison

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By Jessica Turnbull
Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010

As local residents deal with the winter weather, state money is available again to help keep the heat on.

The Pennsylvania Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program will open a crisis center in Harrison on Monday where a case worker will be available to help people in danger of losing heating in their homes, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services announced this week.

The site will be located at the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches, 1913 Freeport Rd., in Harrison. That's near McDonald's restaurant, said association executive director Karen Snair.

LIHEAP provides funds to low-income households with heating emergencies such as service terminations, repairs and lack of deliverable fuel such as heating oil, propane and kerosene, Snair said. The caseworker will be available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday as long as funds are available, she said.

LIHEAP is federally funded and administrated through the state and county and is comprised of three types of grants — cash, crisis and weatherization, said Sally Petrilli, LIHEAP coordinator for Allegheny County Department of Human Services.

Cash grant ranges from $100 to $1,000 and increased by $100 this year, raising the average grant to $326 per household, according to Gov. Ed Rendell's office.

Crisis grants help someone whose service has been shut off completely, whose furnace is broken or needs money for deliverable fuel. In previous years, a crisis grant could be given with a termination notice. Now, service must be discontinued, Petrilli said.

Also in previous years, an applicant could apply several times until they had received the maximum amount. Now, the grant is a one-time approval for a maximum of $400, Petrilli said.

Weatherization grants fund emergency furnace repairs for renters and homeowners for a total of $6,500 per person, she said.

Last year, 20,000 people in Allegheny County used the crisis grant, Petrilli said. She estimates hundreds of thousands of people across the state use LIHEAP funds to make it through the winter.

Snair said the group has hosted the program for about five or six years to help local residents avoid a trip to the only other site: in Pittsburgh at the Human Services Building on Smithfield Street.

"We try to make it as a convenience to members of the community," Snair said. "People are experiencing enough troubles and hardships."

Additional Information:

Aid for heating bills

LIHEAP funds • Cash, Crisis or Weatherization grants are available at the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches, 1913 Freeport Rd.

Applicants can come in person with a letter from the utility company, proof of Social Security numbers for all household members and proof of gross income for a minimum of the past 90 days for all household members.

Also available are grants from the Dollar Energy Fund, a private pool of money from utility companies. An applicant needs to have paid $150 in heating costs in the past 60 days to be eligible for the $500 grant. Anyone interested in applying should call the association at 724-226-0606 to ensure the two caseworkers will be available.

More information is available at 1-800-851-3838 or at



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