TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – If you’re finding it difficult to meet your heating bills this winter, don’t worry too much – there is help.

The deadline for this season's federal home heating assistance program has been extended to the end of February.

“The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says it still has $4 million in the pool,” Ken Robinette, executive director of South Central Community Action Partnership, which administers the program locally, told News Radio 1310 on Tuesday, “so it decided to extended the deadline.”

Earlier this month, Health and Welfare put the deadline at Jan. 31. Robinette said he is pleased with the extension because many families every year face going cold as they struggle to meet their heating bills, but this season has been especially harsh.

“This program," says SCCAP Executive Director Ken Robinette, "was put into place to provide assistance to those who can’t afford the high heating bills."

“This weather is causing havoc with their heating system. Heating bills are going to be really high for families,” he said. “This program was put into place to provide assistance to those who can’t afford the high heating bills. They live in housing, sometimes rental units, that are not always the best of homes but it’s what they can afford.”

Congress appropriated $11 million statewide for the program for fiscal year 2017, which started in October, and is dispersed to agencies throughout the state through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. SCCAP started receiving applicants on Nov. 1. So far this benefit season SCCAP has processed 3,444 applications, or total dollar benefits of $466,975. That amounts to an average benefit of $136 per family.

“One-hundred and thirty-six dollars is not a big deal to a lot of families, but to others it is,” he said. “For some families it’s their choice if they want to keep heat on or buy food for their kids, or buy medicine that they may need, or buy gas for their car.”

SCCAP has two south-central Idaho offices – in Burley and Twin Falls – but Robinette said his staff is trying to reach outlying communities in the Magic and Wood River valleys. If south-central residents don’t apply by the end of February, he said, the money appropriated for the program will go to applicants in other communities. Money is allocated throughout the state on a first-come, first-served basis.

Only those who have not received assistance this season may qualify. To find out more, including to set up an appointment, call the SCCAP office in Twin Falls at 736-0676, or the Burley office at 678-3514.

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