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Cherokee Nation accepting energy assistance applications

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation is again providing funding through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for eligible Cherokees and other Native Americans this winter.

LIHEAP is a federally funded program that services low income households who need assistance for their home energy bills. The program encourages that priority be given to those with the “highest home energy needs,” meaning low income households with a high energy burden or the presence of a vulnerable individual in the household, such as a young child, disabled person or frail older individual.

“It is a blessing that the Cherokee Nation is able to provide more assistance to families this year,” said Chad Smith, Cherokee Nation principal chief. “In past years we have been able to assist approximately 1,700 applicants through the Cherokee Nation LIHEAP program. This year, with additional federal funds, we anticipate helping many more.”

This year, the Cherokee Nation received additional funding for the program, allowing for an increase in the income for those eligible for assistance. Income eligibility levels are based on income plus the number of persons residing in the home. Income eligibility this year cannot exceed poverty level plus 50 percent, whereas the amount has traditionally been poverty level plus 10 percent. For example, a household of two cannot have a combined income totaling more than $1,821 per month, or $21,855 per year, and a household of four cannot have combined incomes of more than $2,756 per month or $33,075 per year. For complete income guidelines, contact the Family Assistance Program.

“We are excited about this year’s program and are happy we will be able to assist more of our citizens with increased funds,” said Jerry Snell, Cherokee Nation director of family assistance.

LIHEAP payments are also provided by other area agencies; however, a household can only legally receive services through one agency.

To be eligible, a person must reside within the tribal jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation, have a citizenship card from a federally-recognized tribe, show proof of income for the previous 12 months, show proof of residency and provide energy vendor information. Payments will be made to the vendor in recipient’s name. Priority will be given to elders and families with children under the age of five. Applications will be accepted from Dec. 1 through Jan. 4, 2010. Applications for crisis situations will be accepted beginning Jan. 5, 2010.

For more information, contact Janet Ward, Cherokee Nation LIHEAP coordinator, at (918) 453-5327.