State provides heating help

Published 9:09 pm Monday, November 17, 2008

RICHMOND – With economic conditions worsening and considering the volatility of energy prices, two Virginia programs designed to help low-income residents pay their heating bills have announced plans to expand their assistance this year.

Governor Timothy M. Kaine has announced an extension of the deadline to apply for the state’s Energy Assistance Program, which is administered by the Virginia Department of Social Services.

The new, Dec. 1 deadline will allow more time for lower-income households and members of at-risk groups, including the elderly and disabled, to apply for fuel assistance.

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To qualify, a one-person household’s maximum gross monthly income cannot exceed $1,127. For a household of four, the maximum gross monthly income level is $2,297. Applicants must apply through their local department of social services. Last year, Virginia served more than 108,000 households.

“Virginia households make economic sacrifices in a number of ways, but staying warm shouldn’t be among them,” Kaine said. “The Commonwealth is fortunate to have obtained additional federal funding to offset heating costs. Additionally, energy companies and organizations such as the AARP are providing easy avenues for all of us to pitch in, and I encourage people to help where they can.”

Dominion Virginia Power started its EnergyShare program for the 27th season this month with $2.5 million made available by the company to help families in need pay their winter heating costs. Dominion’s contribution is part of a $5 million grant made in May in light of increased need caused by spiraling energy prices and a softening economy.

EnergyShare is a year-round energy assistance and weatherization program that helps those in need keep their homes warm during the winter and cool in the summer after all other assistance has been exhausted. The one-time assistance amount has been increased and now provides up to $600 in aid.

“We have increased the amount of the maximum grant to provide additional assistance to those who are most vulnerable to the current adverse economic conditions and higher energy prices,” said William C. Hall Jr., Dominion vice president of corporate communications and community affairs.

EnergyShare is now accepting applications. Customers can call 1-888-667-3000 or visit, keyword EnergyShare, to find an agency where they can apply.

The program has raised more than $31 million in its 26-year history and is supported by donations from Dominion Virginia Power customers, employees and EnergyShare partners such as businesses, churches and civic organizations.

Last year, donations totaled nearly $1.4 million and helped more than 8,000 families pay for various forms of heat – oil, coal, wood, kerosene, natural gas or electricity. EnergyShare pays heating bills, regardless of the type of heating fuel used.

Dominion works with local health and social service agencies in the company’s service areas to assist eligible individuals and families. Because Dominion pays all administrative costs, 100 percent of donations go directly into the program.

Customers can contribute to EnergyShare by adding an extra $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $25 or $35 monthly to their Dominion Virginia Power bills or by including a separate check for any amount with their payments. All contributions are tax deductible and can be mailed to EnergyShare, P.O. Box 11186, Richmond, Va. 23230-1186.