YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – WKBN 27 First News Community Affairs Coordinator Dee Crawford is talking with Joan Trgovan with Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Partnership. The topic is winter heating bills and services available to help.

The Winter Crisis Program begins Nov. 1. Help is available to those who have had service shut off, whether it’s gas or electricity, but also to those who setting up service for the first time; those transferring service; those getting set up on PIPP for the first time and even those who receive bulk fuel such as coal, wood, oil propane or kerosene.

The federal program is administered by the state.

“In our last season, which goes from 2022 to 2023, we serviced 3,100 customers with the Winter Crisis Program — in that six-month period.

Between March and November, customers are at risk of having their gas and electric shut off, but Trgovac said there are other programs to help out with that, too.

“Well, the winter when the winter crisis program is used, there is no co-pay that they pay. But, some customers do end up having disconnected after the deadline for the winter crisis ends in March. But there are other alternatives sometimes for the gas utilizing medical certifications and the electric program in the summer. The summer crisis program can assist customers with that program to keep the electricity on,” she said.

It’s good to get started early when applying for assistance because appointments can take a while.

“Scheduling through the normal appointment line does schedule you up to 28 days out, which is a state-allotted amount to be scheduled out for. But scheduling an appointment there prompts you to put your account numbers in so those that have the disconnection notice will be held and not turned off for that 28 days,” Trgovac said.

Then, there is a 30-day extension to allow time to process the application.

The program is based on total account balances, whether that be for gas, electric, coal, etc or a combination of those.

For assistance, customers can call 330-778-2992, walk-in or apply online. You should expect to have to come in for a personal interview.

“There are exceptions for those senior citizens who may not be able to physically or for transportation reasons, but it’s, basically, a face-to-face appointment,” Trgovac said. “What you need across the board is a photo ID for everyone under 18 and older. Actual Social Security cards are one form of citizenship, and citizenship must be provided for everyone in the household. Other forms would be birth certificates, passports, visas, temporary alien registration cards — that type of thing.

Trgoan said that FirstEnergy and the Salvation Army also offer their own energy assistance programs. She said some of those programs go up to 200% of the poverty guidelines.

In addition, MYCAP offers senior services, a diaper bank. workforce development, weatherization for homes and other services.

“We are always looking at what best suits the community and what needs are met. I am looking for grants to help the community with those items,” Trgovac said.