Hopkinsville Electric System and Pennyrile Allied Community Services are hoping the community will share the warmth this year through Project Share -- a local initiative that seeks to help local people cover increased heating costs in the winter.

Jeff Hurd, Hopkinsville Electric System general manager, said the history of the Project Share program goes back several years.

"We've been part of the program for about 12 to 15 years," he said. "Each winter there are those who struggle to pay their winter heating bills who, due to no fault of their own, can't pay it. Maybe they've lost a job or had a health issue, but we went into partnership with PACS because they have a program that disperses funds to those who need heating assistance."

Pennyrile Allied Community Services administers the Local Income Home Energy Assistance Program, also called LIHEAP. Those in need of heating assistance can fill out a form at the PACS office to see if they qualify.

According to the PACS website, the individual must bring the disconnect notice from the electric company, and, if applicable, proof of their previous month's income for anyone in the home receiving an income (no bank statements) or most recent award letter for Social Security, pension or similar income. If there was no income, a verification form must be filled out and signed by someone who is not related to them and does not live in the home. A Social Security card for each person living in the home is also required.

Hurd said heating bills can drastically increase depending on weather this time of year.

"It's not unusual to see the bills triple in the winter months," he said. "When we have weather in the teens and single digits, that's going to impact your heating bill. That's difficult for people who are on fixed incomes."

Project Share allows HES customers to make small contributions and create a larger pool of money to assist those in need. According to the HES website, the combined contributions are then matched dollar for dollar by HES, and the total amount is sent to PACS which disperses it each winter to local residents who qualify for heating assistance funding.

"We're asking our customers who can contribute at any level to donate," Hurd said. "Even if it's just adding a dollar to their monthly bill."

Hurd said HES makes the collective donation to PACS in January, but those funds can be distributed to those in need by PACS throughout the whole year, even the summer.

"We focus on it during the winter months because that's when the most significant bills come up, but it could be administered in the summer as well," he said.

Hurd said the HES staff is trained to direct customers in need of electricity bill assistance to PACS to fill out an assistance form.

PACS will be taking applications from 7:30 a.m. through 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to the website. PACS offices will be closed Thursday and Friday for the observance of Thanksgiving. PACS will continue to take applications when its office is open, until the funding runs out.

With the help of Project Share, that money could last a little longer.

"I just hope everyone realizes that there are those in our community that are not as fortunate. Even small contributions, just rounding off to the nearest dollar, will make an impact,"he said. "We have about 13,000 customers at HES, so if everyone does a small part it will have a great impact, and I know it will be appreciated."

To contribute to Project Share, visit http://hop-electric.com/community/project-share and fill out the form to designate the donation amount.

Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or zalleyne@kentuckynewera.com.

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