COLUMBIA CITY — Due to cooler temperatures, energy assistance programs are working with county citizens to help them pay their heating bills.
Whitley Co. Energy Assistance Fund
“We only help each household once every 12 months,” said Steve Weaver with the Whitley County Energy Assistance Fund. “The maximum we pay is $150, and if someone comes to us with an electrical bill, we ask them to come up with a budget of how they can continue to manage their own bills the next month. We do not help pay if they cannot plan to pay their next bill.”
According to Weaver, the applicant is generally asked if they have contacted the township trustee and the Community Action of Northeast Indiana (CANI) before completing an application process.
“Those agencies know if the person needs to come in based on their income,” said Weaver.
“As of Oct. 16, 75 families have been helped through the fund,” said Weaver. “While we’re not seeing an increase in numbers of people applying, we are getting more and more people who have never applied before.”
Weaver said the application only takes approximately 10 minutes to fill out.
“Those in need can fill out a form at our office,” said Weaver. “We review it on the spot, and if they qualify, we can contact them.”
According to Lisa Castle, planning and quality supervisor at CANI’s location in Fort Wayne, CANI’s Energy Assistance Program covers Allen, DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben and Whitley.
“The energy assistance program just started a few days ago,” said Castle. “We’ve helped sixty-six people in Whitley County.”
While Castle said she has not noticed a large increase in the numbers of people applying for the program, she said the energy assistance provided this summer in relief to the scorching temperatures was not something they had usually had to deal with in previous years.
According to Castle, one of the best ways those in need of assistance can receive help include visiting CANI’s website to print off a mail-in form.
“We follow the federal poverty guidelines,” said Castle. “We operate on a first come first serve basis, but we are particularly concerned with people who may have been disconnected. They are our priority.”
According to the United Way of Whitley County Director Cindy Baker, the 211 resource services hotline also provides information concerning energy assistance.
“If people need assistance, of any nature, they can call 211 and it will take them to a referral organization and all the caller needs to do is tell them what county they live in and what sort of issue they are having or what sort of assistance they need,” said Baker. “211 provides information on everything from abuse assistance to wellness programs.”
For more information on the Whitley County Energy Assistance Fund, visit 528 N. Main Street in Columbia City or call 244-6531.
For more information on CANI’s energy assistance program, visit 227 E. Washington Blvd. in Fort Wayne, www.canihelp.org  or call 1 (800) 589-2264.