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Heating assistance in the works for county residents

ELIZABETHTOWN Essex County officials are working to get a jump on an anticipated heating crisis this winter. Patty Bashaw, head of the Essex County Office for the Aging delivered an update to the Board of Supervisors Finance Committee on Aug. 18 describing the current plan to address the issue. Bashaw announced that the county-wide program has been given a tentative name: Last Stop. It is our goal to assist about 200 homes, that may be a little bit more depending on how much money we do get. Since last years denied applications averaged out to be roughly $375 above HEAP eligibility, Bashaw said, Last Stop would look to assist people who exceeded the requirements by about $250. Other requirements will be put place for the program so that only people with a legitimate need for oil will get assistance. There is also a $2500 limit on savings for people to apply. Bashaw said that the applications can be processed within a day or two so that people with near-empty tanks wont have to wait to get them filled. For those eligible, Last Stop will provide a one-time benefit of $500, which will go directly to fuel vendors. The assistance will be distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis, which may leave late applicants out in the cold. We cant help everybody that needs help, said committee chair Ronald Jackson. It is going to be a one time $500 and that is 100 gallons of fuel, that isnt getting anybody through the winter, all it will do is try to take a little of the sting and buy them some time. Bashaw noted that similar programs were in place for individual towns, so if Last Stop couldnt reach people in every town, there would still be assistance available for them. Moriah supervisor Thomas Scozzafava made reference to another assistance program known as Joe 4 Oil which operates through participating gasoline stations and provides similar assistance to people above the HEAP qualifications. Jackson noted that there were already a few stations in Essex County that were participating. That is in the equation. The churches are in the equation. There are a lot of pieces to the pie and they all help some but none are going to help completely, Jackson said.

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