Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and other county officials announce a $19 million grant for utility assistance from the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program. (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris was joined by other county officials at a Wednesday afternoon press conference announcing a $19 million grant for utility assistance from the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally funded entity.

“We were thrilled, as you can imagine, with such a generous amount,” said Community Services Director Dorcas Young Griffin. “There are people in our city and county who are struggling to pay their utilities, and we want to make sure that every household that qualifies for this assistance actually receives it.”

LIHEAP grants to Shelby County received annually total $8 or $9 million. The additional $10 million this year has been a great cause for celebration, but now the real work begins.

“We know that the need is there, and we plan to be proactive in, not only getting the word out through news interviews and social media, but we are also partnering with non-profit agencies who serve those families who need help,” said Griffin. “I have an incredible team of staff and leaders who are committed to serve. 

As the agency’s director, Griffin is getting a lot of credit for the grant. However, she said, “one of our best leaders, Cherry Whitehead-Thompson and her team made it all happen. They put in the work, and we are now reaping the rewards.”

The actual amount of the grant is $21,699,721. The nearly $3 million remaining will be used to employ the administrative staff needed to process applications. Nonprofits and other agencies working with low-income families will be trained to help applicants properly fill out an application. 

“We want everyone to pass the word that there is help available for utilities,” said Griffin. “We know that the need is out there. As long as the applicant meets the specified qualifications, this money is being made available. We have to give out every dollar of this assistance, and we have until September 30th of this year.”

Dorcas Young Griffin
Dorcas Young Griffin

Several items of documentation are needed for all persons applying to receive utility assistance:

* Social Security Cards for all household members over the age of one;

* Birth certificates for children under age six;

* Valid government-issued ID;

* Proof of Veteran’s status (if applicable);

* Two months proof of income for all household members over age 18;

* Most recent utility bill (must have an active utility account);

* MHA Tenant/Owner notification of HAP/Lease change;

* Public housing HUD 59 Form. 

Those who received assistance between July 1-December 31, 2018 are eligible to reapply between now and September 2019.

Residents who need crisis assistance and have already received a disconnect notice will be eligible for assistance. Also considered a crisis is one or more household members are under the age of six, a senior over 60, or a disabled individual.

Those who are not considered to be in crisis mode are also eligible, as long as they meet the income criteria, household size, and energy burden.

To get access to LIHEAP, applications may be filled out at: 3772 Hickory Ridge Mall; Suite 516. Applications also are available on the Shelby County website.