LAWTON, Okla._People filed into the DHS office in Lawton Tuesday, where for the first time this summer, they were able to apply for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
The state has allocated $18 million in funding to help residents pay their electric bills, which soar as summer temperatures rise. Help is offered on a first-come, first-served basis for those who qualify.
Nikki Shamblin is the mother of three boys, ages 7, 8, and 12. When these summer months come and those electric bills rise, if she didn't get this help, she says it would mean some serious cuts. Shamblin also works at DHS.
"Day to day is crazy of course. They think a living room is for WWE," Shamblin said.
In the summer time, those WWE matches can heat up a living room, and when that a/c turns on, the electric bill goes up.
"They like to run fans along with the air conditioning. I try to keep it cool in the bedrooms for when they're sleeping, but during the day I'm like turn it down a little bit you don't need the fans running, you don't need all that stuff going," Shamblin said.
Thankfully for Shamblin, she'll be getting some assistance this summer.
"The LIHEAP program, this is the first year I've been income qualified. So, it's going to be a big help, especially in the summer with all the bills," she said.
If not, she says like past summers, she'd have to make some sacrifices to keep her kids cool.
"I'd have to cut bills somewhere else, whether doctors, medication. I've sometimes had to skip for a couple weeks to keep up with my bills," she said.
Shamblin says she believes DHS will pay around $150 of her $175 electric bill. She's hoping that means eventually she'll be able to take her kids out to enjoy a meal that isn't hot dogs or macaroni and cheese.
DHS has no way of knowing when the allocated funds could run out, so officials say it is best to apply as soon as possible.
Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on each household's income and assets. If you or someone you know may be income eligible and are at risk for heat-related health problems due to the inability to afford adequate cooling, you are encouraged to apply for the Summer Cooling Program available at your local DHS County Office.
Only one payment per household is allowed annually for LIHEAP summer cooling assistance. "Household" is defined as individuals living 'under the same roof'.
Many households that receive public assistance through DHS may be automatically authorized for summer cooling assistance and will not need to make application. Preauthorized households will be notified of their eligibility by letter prior to the beginning of the application period.
The maximum income guidelines are:
Size of Household/Allowable Monthly Net Income