Even though Bartow County residents have enjoyed warmer temperatures recently, the Tallatoona Community Action Partnership is still working to ensure some residents can pay their heating bills.
Through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Tallatoona CAP offers the ability to pay a one-time amount on a heating bill to those who have a demonstrated need.
“Basically Tallatoona serves eight counties with this assistance,” Community Services Director April Rogers said. “They’re federal funds and they’re passed down to the state and given to community action agencies to help with heating bills during the winter months.
“In saying that, we serviced about 15,022 people and the program allows for us to pay low-income people’s heating bills with a one-time payment of either $310 or $350. It’s just a one-time payment, but it does help with those higher energy costs in the winter time. So it does help out. They do have to be income eligible, which is based off the federal poverty levels.”
Though the program began Nov. 1, 2013, and continued into December, Rogers said her organization received a third amount of money this year from Congress.
“We’re allocated a certain amount of funds and then we were allocated an additional amount of funds, and we just received notice of an additional amount of funds. I think that could be due to the extremely cold temperatures that a lot of the states [saw]. I can’t say that for sure, but my thought is that Congress said, ‘Hey, we’re really getting hit hard by the cold temperatures, maybe we need to put some more money in.’”
Since Nov. 1, Rogers estimated that Tallatoona Cap had assisted 1,500 people in Bartow County. With the new infusion of funds, she believed another 300 to 400 residents could be assisted.
In addition to Bartow County, Tallatoona CAP serves Cobb, Douglas, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Paulding and Polk counties.
To schedule an appointment for heating assistance, which does not guarantee processing or payment, those interested are asked to call either 770-817-4666 or 770-773-7730. The call lines are a new approach for Tallatoona, Rogers added.
“We started a different approach because we didn’t want people standing out in the cold at 3 [a.m.] — they would stand out there at 3 o’clock in the morning to get in line in front of our offices,” she said. “We would experience people fighting, breaking in line, shoving. We had to have security there, so we’re attempting a different approach with a call center. You can only make an appointment by phone, Internet, that sort of thing, so we got away from those kind of hazardous conditions.”
For the current period, appointments can only be made via phone, Rogers said.
“We are taking additional calls for appointments now. We turned off our waiting list and [started] taking calls. We’re actually calling folks from those waiting lists, as well as taking calls through our call center to do scheduling. We don’t have our online scheduling up right now,” she said.
Of the counties Tallatoona CAP serves, Bartow County is in the top three.
“I’ll tell you, we have eight counties and, of course, Cobb County is the largest county ... but I would say Bartow is one of our top three counties as far as being busy. They actually, next to Cobb ... Bartow and Floyd are tied for second place in demand,” Rogers said. “We’re having a lot of calls because people are getting really high bills due to the weather. They’re not used to that.
“A lot of our seniors, we have a lot of calls from people who have life-threatening crisis situations. They need their electric service because they’re plugged into oxygen. We get a lot of homebound people. I actually go to homebound clients’ houses to do applications so we can help them.”