HEAP building open to public

The Home Energy Assistance Program is operating out of its new home on West Main.

Opportunities for Individual Change of Clark County administers the program, which assists families with home energy costs, through the Ohio Department of Development.

The 1,500-square-foot location — the old Greyhound bus station which closed in 2005 — has plenty of paved parking and handicap-accessible bathrooms, said Mike Calabrese, the executive director of OIC.

“If we were going to build a building, it wasn’t going to be much different than what we have there,” Calabrese said. “It was really a great fit.”

The operation moved seven staff members into the building about two weeks ago, Calabrese said.

OIC spent approximately $105,000 on the property, including renovations such as a new roof. The location, which was built in 1976, but had been vacant for over eight years.

“It was an opportunity to take a large piece of property there on the corner and do something positive with it in the western quadrant of the city which needs a lot of attention,” Calabrese said.

The location also provides more space at OIC’s headquarters at 10, S. Yellow Springs St., which also has an alternative high school inthe building.

“It’ll make it a much more positive environment for the students, and that’s why we did this,” Calabrese said.

City planning and zoning administrator Bryan Heck said the new HEAP building adds to the momentum OIC has created with other projects in the vicinity.

“Any time you take an underutilized or vacant building and put it back into a productive use, it’s positive for the neighborhood,” Heck said.

Trish Griffin, the director of operations for OIC, said the new building will increase work flow for the program, which expects to process 5,000 applications over the next five months.

“We have better space as far as parking and we’ve expanded capacity to process,” Griffin said. “We’ll be able to get people in and out quicker.”

Griffin said the number of applications for the Winter Crisis Program declined from 2011 to 2012. However, the numbers were offset by increased Percentage of Income Payment Plus Program, or PIPP, participation. They expect to have 2,000 applications for the Winter Crisis Program, and another 3,000 for the PIPP Plus program. They’ll also process another 3,500 applications for summer assistance during the months of April through October.

The Winter Crisis Program runs November 1 through March 31. The program provides financial assistance to low-income households in danger of being disconnected or have already been disconnected, those who need to begin or transfer service or families who have less than 25 percentof the fuel capacity in their tank. Families who qualify must have a total household income for the last 12 months or 90-days equal to or less than 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, that equals to no more than $41,212 annually or $10,303.13 for the most recent 13-week period.

The PIPP Plus program is available year-round and makes monthly payments more affordable for low-income families. As part of the program, if a household pays the PIPP payment in full and on time, as well the some of their old debt, the remainder of the current month’s bill will be credited on their account.

Residents enrolled in PIPP must receive electric or gas service from a company regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, and must verify income every 12 months. To qualify, the total household income must be at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level — which equals no more than $35,325 annually or $8,831 for the most recent 13-week period. Participants are also required to apply for all energy assistance programs in which they’re eligible.

All applications are processed by appointment only. For more information or to make an appointment, call 325-8366.

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