State program helps residents pay for heat

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People who need help with winter heating emergencies soon will be able to get aid through Pennsylvania's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The program is known by its acronym LIHEAP.

Allegheny County's Department of Human Services will operate three LIHEAP crisis centers for people who find themselves unable to pay for fuel or for heating system repairs.

The first two centers will open Jan. 3 with a third scheduled to begin accepting aid applications on Jan. 11.

"The crisis centers offer a safety net for people who, after buying food and paying health-care bills, find that their utility costs are overwhelming," said Sally Petrilli, service administrator for the county's LIHEAP crisis effort.

Crisis centers will open Jan. 3 in the Department of Human Services Building, 1 Smithfield St., first floor, Downtown, and in the Braddock Employment and Training Center, 849 Braddock Ave.

The Downtown center will be open 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday for people who cannot apply during the week. The Braddock center will be open 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

A third center will open Jan. 11 in the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches office, 1913 Freeport Road, in the Natrona Heights neighborhood of Harrison. It will operate 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The LIHEAP crisis centers last year helped about 7,000 Allegheny County residents facing unexpected heating expenses.

Help provided through the crisis centers will augment LIHEAP's cash assistance program, which helps low-income people pay their heating bills. Since that effort got under way on Nov. 1, it has aided 33,820 individuals and families, Ms. Petrilli said.

Applicants for both the cash assistance and the crisis programs must have incomes at or below 160 percent of the federal poverty level. That number is $23,312 for a family of two.

More information about the LIHEAP Crisis centers and other utility assistance programs is available by calling the county at 1-800-851-3838 or by visiting the Department of Human Services utility assistance page on the county website,

Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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