Thursday, February 01, 2001

Heat aid for poor starts Monday

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County's poor can begin applying for help Monday with their heating bills through a state program called Project Thaw.

        It took county officials a couple of days longer than other Southwest Ohio counties to produce applications for the program and complete its details.

        But the delay won't cost Hamilton County in receiving its share of the $45 million earmarked for counties throughout the state on a first-come, first-served basis, said Don Thomas, director of the county's Department of Human Services.

    Hamilton County residents can pick up applications for “Project THAW” at the following locations:
    • All 10 Cinergy-CG&E locations.
    • Any public library.
    • Hamilton County Department of Human Services, 222 E. Central Parkway, or 237 Taft Road.
    • Five Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency locations: Seven Hills neighborhood Center; Community Services, West-Northern; East End Seven Hills Neighborhood Inc.; West College Hill Neighborhood Inc.; Harrison Senior Center-Northern.
    • Better Housing League: United Way & Community Chest Building, 2400 Reading Road, Suite 404.
    • Older people, or those with disabilities who cannot pick up applications, should call 751-2624, and one will be delivered to their home.
        “I think we were as fast out of the chute as anybody,” Mr. Thomas said.

        County officials say about 80,000 county households will qualify for the one-time assistance of up to $250. Under the plan, half of a household's current heating bill will be paid, up to the maximum.

        Denise Winkler, spokeswoman for DHS, said the state will front Hamilton County an initial $5 million so it can begin making payments right away. If there's any state money left when that runs out, the county can ask for more.

        “We fully intend to do so if we use this up quickly,” Ms. Winkler said.

        Applications will be processed through Cinergy Inc. Once eligibility is determined, Cinergy will send a bill to the county.

        Those applying for the help won't know until their next bill if they received the help. Mr. Thomas said there are no guarantees.

        “Once the money is gone, it's gone,” Mr. Thomas said. “I'm saying don't delay, get those applications in immediately.”

        After applying for the program, residents should pay their bill. If they receive help through the program, a credit will appear on their next month's bill.

        Grady Reid Jr., manager of revenue collections for Cinergy, said bills will be sent to the county daily so the county can claim as much state money as possible.

        “We'll turn the applications around in the same day,” Mr. Reid said.

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