CONTACT:  Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

TRENTON, N.J.—With winter cold just around the corner, Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes is reminding residents that assistance is available for energy costs for those who qualify.

Even with an expected decrease in heating costs compared to last winter, many individuals and families continue to struggle to make ends meet, Hughes said. The County’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) allows individuals meeting various income qualifications to apply for bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, and energy-related home repairs.

“This year as in years past, for many households winter brings worry about the cost of heating and other energy bills,” said Hughes. “As this year’s program gets under way, I also urge our residents to look into simple ways they can reduce their energy costs such as using fluorescent light bulbs and weather stripping doors and windows.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently reported that on average, heating bills will be about 8 percent lower — a decrease of about $84 per home — than one year ago. The US EIA cited lower fuel prices as the reason for the decrease.

However, the EIA also cautioned that fuel expenditures for individual households are highly dependent on local weather conditions, the size and efficiency of individual homes and their heating equipment, and thermostat settings.

Hughes urges people to be extremely careful if using an alternative heat source, such as fireplace, wood burning stove, kerosene heater or space heater, to reduce energy costs. 

Individuals meeting various income qualifications can apply for bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, and energy-related home repairs. Last year’s clients can expect to receive applications from the Mercer County Housing and Community Development Office during the first two weeks of November. New clients, as well as returning clients, can contact the Office at (609) 989-6858 or 989-6959. Monies are from the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Department of Health and Human Services, and funding levels are established annually. The program runs from November 2, 2009 to April 30, 2010.

Last season, the County assisted 11,520 families and provided emergency assistance to 5,136 families using a total of approximately $15 million in financial assistance. The County last year also issued Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) grants to approximately 315 families. This heating season, Mercer County will begin to make use of approximately $4 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to weatherize more than 500 homes over the next three years.

The County’s Division of Housing and Community Development will hold a Neighborhood Workshop to help answer questions residents may have on the weatherization program. The workshop will be Thursday, Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lawrence Neighborhood Center, 295 Eggerts Crossing Road, Lawrence.