The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is now offering crisis grants to help needy Pennsylvanians repair broken furnaces and replenish heating fuel.
Wednesday marked the first day that crisis grants are available in addition to LIHEAP's cash grants to help low-income families pay utility bills.
"We open the crisis program in January as the temperatures in Pennsylvania really begin to plummet and heating one's home becomes a lifesaving measure," said Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) Secretary Gary Alexander, in a written statement.
The income eligibility limit for a single-person household is $16,755; the income threshold increases by $5,940 for each additional household member. For example, the income limit for a family of four is $34,575.
DPW spokeswoman Donna Morgan said families that receive cash grants can easily apply for crisis grants, if necessary.
"The paperwork and the information that is available through the cash grants will be available and easily applied to the crisis grants," said Morgan. "All they want to do is go and contact their county assistance office, and the paperwork and the information should already be in there so they can quickly apply for crisis [grants]."
Morgan said the DPW prefers first-time applicants to apply online, but she said the statewide telephone hotline number is (866) 857-7095. The hotline number specific to Allegheny County is (800) 622-3527.
LIHEAP is a federally-funded program administered by the state government. Roughly 600,000 Pennsylvanians benefitted from the program in 2012.