Employees at Step Forward's Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) are processing hundreds of applications as Northeast Ohio prepares for dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills throughout the holiday weekend.
The Winter Crisis Program helps eligible Greater Cleveland residents who are threatened with disconnection, have been disconnected, or have less than a 25 percent supply of bulk fuel in their tank maintain their utility service.
“We are doing everything we can to assist everyone who is in need,” Paul Billups, the Director of HEAP at Step Forward said. “Right now, we are telling those who may be left in the cold this weekend that they should reach out to our office as soon as possible if their utilities are already disconnected. We will accommodate as many as we can to assist with having their services restored before the extreme cold hits.”
Between November 1st and December 20th, 2022, Step Forward has received more than 103,000 phone calls from people asking for help to pay their utility bills. That is a 98 percent increase in calls compared to the same time period in 2021.
Households eligible for assistance can receive up to $175 if they are a client of a regulated utility or $800 if they are a client of unregulated utilities such as electric cooperatives and municipal utilities. To qualify for assistance, residents must have a gross income at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Assistance funds will be applied to an applicant's utility bill or heating system repair costs. This is a one-time benefit to be used in emergency situations when residents are faced with disconnection.
To apply for the program, clients must schedule an appointment by calling (216) 350-8008 or online at stepforward.itfrontdesk.com. Appointments are available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Walk-ins are not accepted.
Residents with scheduled appointments should submit their documentation at least three days in advance of their appointment to receive assistance at the time of appointment. Documentation can be submitted to the Step Forward drop box at 2203 Superior Avenue, through the online scheduler linked above, emailed to Heapdocuments@stepforwardtoday.org, or submitted online at energyhelp.ohio.gov.
Clients need to bring copies of the following documents to their appointment:
· Copies of most recent energy bills; utility bills (gas and/or electric), regardless of account status
· A list of all household members and proof of income for the last 30 days or 12 months for each member
· Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency for all household members
· Proof of disability (if applicable)
· Birth Dates and Social Security Numbers for all household members
To find a list of required documentation, or to learn more about Step Forward's energy assistance programs, click here.
Step Forward helps people find hope, believe in their future and take steps to make it a reality. As the State’s designated anti-poverty agency for Cuyahoga County, Step Forward is tasked and trusted to lead the fight on the ground against poverty in our community. The nonprofit organization helps low-income individuals and families address immediate needs and build long-term skills to transform their lives through early childhood education programs, adult skills training and other support. Programs include Early Head Start (birth to three), Head Start (three-five years of age); personal development programs to enhance life skills, manage anger or get on track with personal goals; career planning and job training to enable people to learn or enhance skills, earn certifications or improve readiness to pursue and win better job opportunities. Step Forward also delivers the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). For more information, visit stepforwardtoday.org.