NIPSCO is providing an extra $2.1 million to help the federal Energy Assistance Program in the northern third of Indiana, filling part of the gap left by federal spending cuts this year.
The extra money could help roughly 8,000 low-income households in NIPSCO’s service area who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten help with their winter heating bills, Nick Meyer, spokesman for the Northern Indiana Public Service Co.
He said state regulators approved using the NIPSCO money recently — and also OK’d a similar boost to EAP funding by other natural gas companies in Indiana: Vectren and Citizens Gas.
Indiana’s program received a total of $107 million in federal funding in the last heating season, said Paul Krievins, deputy director of energy programs for the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.
The state expects anywhere from $17 million to $50 million less this year — and won’t know that until Congress decides how much extra to add to the pot, he said. Already, he said, Indiana has started off this season with $48 million of new federal money and $7 million left over from last year.
The state shrunk the amount of aid that goes to each household this year, as a way to serve more people.
The money from NIPSCO is left over from its Winter Warmth aid program, which was discontinued after the 2009-2010 heating season, Meyer said. NIPSCO replaced Winter Warmth with CARE, an aid program that NIPSCO customers are automatically enrolled in if they are enrolled in EAP.
Without the extra NIPSCO money, the nonprofit REAL Services was expecting to sign up about the same number of households for EAP as last year in Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall and St. Joseph counties, said Ingrid Simmons, who oversees the program for REAL Services.
Finding utility aid
Your income must be 150 percent or less of the federal poverty level to qualify for the Energy Assistance Program. That qualifies you for NIPSCO’s CARE program, too. NIPSCO also offers a hardship program for those making 200 percent of poverty or less. You have to apply through certain nonprofit agencies. Here’s where to call for any of the aid programs:
St. Joseph County: 574-232-6501
Elkhart County: 574-875-1875
Marshall County: 574-936-5524
Fulton County: 574-223-7649
Kosciusko County: 574-267-2699
Starke County: 574-772-7070