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Human Services Offering Help with Electric Bills

Aug. 29, 2008 — With electric bills skyrocketing, a growing number of V.I. residents are getting help from the Human Services Department's energy assistance program.
Funding appropriated by the Legislature has increased from $150,000 three years ago to $1 million this year.
"Still, the demand exceeds funding," said Program Administrator Lennox Zamore.
Every day people fill Human Services waiting rooms to sign up for the program, Zamore said.
Human Services pays every other electric bill because the department doesn't have enough funding to pay every month's bill. Zamore said the department pays the V.I. Water and Power Authority directly.
In fiscal year 2005, 1,496 families across the territory benefited from energy assistance. The numbers broke down to 442 households in the St. Thomas/St. John District and 1,054 on St. Croix. By 2006, the number rose to 3,101, with 1,765 households in the St. Thomas/St. John district and 1,336 on St. Croix.
The total hit 8,865 in 2007. This figure breaks down to 3,568 in the St. Thomas/St. John district and 5,297 on St. Croix. From October 2007 through July 2008, the program assisted a total of 5,815 households across the territory. There were 2,595 in the St. Thomas/St. John district and 3,220 on St. Croix.
The average energy bill runs $224 a month, but Human Services caps payment at $500 a month per household, Zamore said.
"Believe it or not, people come in even if their bill is $10," he said.
The program also buys two tanks of propane gas a year for families that meet the same criteria as those for electric-bill assistance. The payment is made directly to the gas company.
The program does not assist businesses. Applicants must be permanent V.I. residents, and income guidelines apply. One person in the household must have an income of under $25,000. The combined income for all people in the house must be under $40,000. All income must be counted.
Applicants must prove their income with pay stubs or employment letters. If they receive Social Security, they must bring verification. Self-employed applicants must bring their income tax return or a notarized letter declaring their income.
"They must bring their current or last WAPA bill," Zamore said.
The electric bill does not have to be in the applicant's name. For example, a tenant may pay the electric bill even through it is not in his or her name.
St. Thomas and St. John residents must apply at the Human Services office in Hospital Ground. On St. Croix, apply at Human Services offices in Frederiksted or Christiansted.
"If they're not sure if they qualify, ask," said Monife Stout of Human Services.
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Aug. 29, 2008 -- With electric bills skyrocketing, a growing number of V.I. residents are getting help from the Human Services Department's energy assistance program.
Funding appropriated by the Legislature has increased from $150,000 three years ago to $1 million this year.
"Still, the demand exceeds funding," said Program Administrator Lennox Zamore.
Every day people fill Human Services waiting rooms to sign up for the program, Zamore said.
Human Services pays every other electric bill because the department doesn't have enough funding to pay every month's bill. Zamore said the department pays the V.I. Water and Power Authority directly.
In fiscal year 2005, 1,496 families across the territory benefited from energy assistance. The numbers broke down to 442 households in the St. Thomas/St. John District and 1,054 on St. Croix. By 2006, the number rose to 3,101, with 1,765 households in the St. Thomas/St. John district and 1,336 on St. Croix.
The total hit 8,865 in 2007. This figure breaks down to 3,568 in the St. Thomas/St. John district and 5,297 on St. Croix. From October 2007 through July 2008, the program assisted a total of 5,815 households across the territory. There were 2,595 in the St. Thomas/St. John district and 3,220 on St. Croix.
The average energy bill runs $224 a month, but Human Services caps payment at $500 a month per household, Zamore said.
"Believe it or not, people come in even if their bill is $10," he said.
The program also buys two tanks of propane gas a year for families that meet the same criteria as those for electric-bill assistance. The payment is made directly to the gas company.
The program does not assist businesses. Applicants must be permanent V.I. residents, and income guidelines apply. One person in the household must have an income of under $25,000. The combined income for all people in the house must be under $40,000. All income must be counted.
Applicants must prove their income with pay stubs or employment letters. If they receive Social Security, they must bring verification. Self-employed applicants must bring their income tax return or a notarized letter declaring their income.
"They must bring their current or last WAPA bill," Zamore said.
The electric bill does not have to be in the applicant's name. For example, a tenant may pay the electric bill even through it is not in his or her name.
St. Thomas and St. John residents must apply at the Human Services office in Hospital Ground. On St. Croix, apply at Human Services offices in Frederiksted or Christiansted.
"If they're not sure if they qualify, ask," said Monife Stout of Human Services.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.