Winter may be a distant memory but it's having an impact on programs to help people pay their energy bills today. The prolonged cold has impacted the budgets of many township trustees.
As we reported earlier this week, Indiana's Low Income Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP spent nearly $48 million helping 130,000 Hoosier families pay their utility bills this winter. The massive demand doesn't leave any money for summer cooling assistance programs. As it turns out, although not as dire, similar situations can be found at township trustee offices around the Tri-State.
At the non-descript, white bricked building, tucked in a crammed corner office, assistance is at work. The Center Township Trustee's Office isn't plush by any means but Gary Burdsall, the Center Township Trustee, will tell you it's pivotal.
"I think a lot of people don't realize what a trustee does," Burdsall said. "I was one of them until I really got involved."
Burdsall became trustee last October just as the wicked winter came for a prolonged stay. The trustee's office, which offers non-food vouchers, help with burial costs and energy assistance, would soon learn what happened then affects what happens now.
"We're doing okay on the money that was allocated to us," Burdsall said. "But we did not see this kind of a winter and summer coming up. It's going to be difficult to allocate the money to the end of the year."
That's nearly six months away with the summer just now kicking into full gear. The need for energy assistance is compounded by many clients living in less-than-efficient mobile homes, Burdsall said.
"If they qualify for assistance, we won't turn them away," Burdsall said. "We are under a budget restraint. We're running quite a bit more ahead than where we were last year with every aspect. It seems like all of the aspects that we do help people are getting tapped."
Center Township encompasses 34 square miles and includes three mobile home parks and other subsidized housing. Burdsall said the need is there and his office will continue to offer the assistance it can regardless of what the weather brings.
"Our [budgetary] sources are limited but we do our best to make sure that every body is taken care of," Burdsall said.