Heating bills don’t have to be problem

Faith Moldan

Faith Moldan

As September draws to a close, the temperature begins to drop. Air conditioners are used less and less, and furnaces are fired up.

For students living in the residence halls, the issue of heat on a cold winter day is no concern. However, students living off campus in apartments and houses must face large, monthly heating bills.

Cyndy Boesch, a community service worker with Inter-Lakes Community Action of Brookings County, is part of the solution for those students that must pay for their heat. Through Boesch’s office, off-campus students can apply to have a portion of their heating costs paid for through Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP), which may also be known as fuel and energy assistance.

“They’re all the same thing,” Boesch said. “They provide assistance to low-income households.”

Students can apply online, obtain an application from Boesch’s office or from the Department of Social Services. Money for the program, which started in South Dakota around 1981, is funded with federal money that goes through the state.

The program provides assistance for the seven-month heating season: Oct. 1 through April 30. Each of the 50 states has a similar program, Boesch said.

“We don’t see a lot of applications from students,” said Boesch, who added that non-traditional students apply more often than other students do. Erica Spaans, a fourth-year nursing major from Beresford, said she thinks more students don’t apply for the assistance because they don’t know about it.

“I’d really be interested. If more people knew about it, they’d apply,” she said.

Older houses, like the one Spaans shares with five roommates, can be more costly to heat as windows and other areas leak badly.

It is also important, Boesch said, that students residing in married-student housing know that they are eligible for the program, but those in the residence halls are not.

Applicants must verify the gross income for each member of their household for the previous three months, not including loans, scholarships or grants. They must have their heat unsubsidized or hold their heating bill account in their own names.

Funds provided to the student do not necessarily last the entire seven months, but must be spread across that time because the student will not get more money.

“Once it’s used up, it’s gone,” Boesch said. “We know that heating bills will be higher this year no matter what kind of winter we have. The cost of propane took a 70 percent jump.”

People who apply later during the seven-month time span, will receive less money as well, and be pro-rated.

Those interested in applying can find more information at www.state.sd.us/social/energy.