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More help to pay heating bills

Wilkes-Barre launched a program on Thursday aimed at helping people who may not always qualify for assistance pay heating bills.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown and his Emergency Utility Assistance Program team have just launched a program to help people in the city with their heating bills. 

"The program is going to have a limitation of $100,000. But for individuals, they can receive up to $1,200 in utility assistance," explained Mayor Brown.

That will be in a one-time grant payment that will go directly to their utility company. Through an application process, applicants have to prove that their income has decreased by at least 30% because of the pandemic, whether through income loss or an increase in pandemic-related expenses.

Individuals will not have to pay back the money. It will come from the Community Development Block Grant COVID-19, authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act.

"What makes this program a little bit different is that it fills a gap, a much-needed gap. Many of the programs max out for like one person; I believe it's like $19,140 would be the max you can make," explained the city's director of community development Joyce Zaykowski. "Whereas our program with community development funding for COVID, we're able to max it out at $40,150."

"It's going to really make a difference in these folks' lives," said program director Nicholas Cave. "They can go ahead and utilize that money for some other household necessity, whether it's food, medicine, doctor's appointments, or just another bill that you know they might be behind on because they've been affected by the COVID pandemic."

The pre-application process for this assistance has started online on the city's website. You can be redirected to that website by clicking this link.  

If you want to call the Office of Economic & Community Development, you can do so at 570-208-4132.