Programs available to aid with heating bills

    Winter has come to the area and many in the community struggle to pay their heating bills when temperatures drop. The city of St. James has provided information regarding programs that can assist families as they try to keep their expenses low while winter bills rise.

    “There are three types of funding out there and the governor has released millions of dollars and it’s just going to lay there unless you go get it,” Utility Office Manager Paulette Craft explained.
    The money is aimed at assisting individuals and families with paying for their winter heating bills and are available for anyone residing in Missouri. The first program is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
    “The first application is called call LIHEAP and you have to have filled out a LIHEAP application to be eligible for the other funding. There is a place online to apply,” Craft said.
    Interested applicants must apply or call 573-765-3138. Through this program, eligible participants will receive a check to help pay for propane or to pay their local utility company.
    “There are three ladies in that office, it’s the MOCA (Missouri Ozark Community Action) office. You’ll need a birth certificate (and) social security number. Anyone 18 to 100 is eligible,” Craft explained.
    “Please apply for this. They will send you a check for as much as $636 for heating and also, again, for summer with air conditioning. So, you fill out a winter application and around June you fill out a summer application. So, it’s a year-around program,” she said.
    MOCA also provides assistance with emergency funding for those struggling to pay their utilities. Those needing emergency funding can contact the MOCA office at 573-765-3138 extension 133 and speak with Kathy Drake in the Community Services Department.
    “What we are seeing is the governor has released enough funds that you will have assistance 11 months out of the year. There is one month they will not help anyone,” Craft said. “They will help the disabled first, then they will help the lower income next. You have to qualify by your income, but we are seeing that income level raised to such a level that nearly anyone can get this funding.
    Another new program the governor has put together and it is Financial Support for Missouri Renters Impacted by COVID-19.
    “So, there is a program that will help you pay your rent and will help you pay your utilities. It will go backward to April 2020 forward,” Craft explained. “So, if you are behind on your rent, this is the program for you. If you are without a job because of COVID, this is the program for you. They will help with your rent and your utilities.”
    Those interested in this program can visit or call 833-541-1599 to learn more.
    Craft said she would be happy to help any resident needing assistance answering questions about these programs or who need help getting signed up. Anyone needing help can contact the municipal utility office at 573-265-7011, extension 5, or stop by city hall to get started.
    “We also have the application, the first step in getting this assistance, here in our office. So, if you don’t have a computer or you need that printed, come by and we will hand that to you. You will fill this out and fax it, the library can fax it, the Caring Center helps fax it, there are lots of avenues to help you fax this to MOCA so that you can get this assistance,” Craft said.
    She added this is a state-administered program and is not run by the city of St. James.
    “It is your tax dollars that you have already paid in that the government has released and is helping individuals pay their utility bill,” she said.
    Craft added the rising cost of utility bills due to winter weather can be a challenge for many families in the community and these programs are designed to help meet that challenge and she encourages everyone to take advantage of them.