Originally created 08/15/98

Cooling money all used



AIKEN -- After a week of handing out money to help keep people cool, the emergency cooling funds at the Aiken-Barnwell Community Action Agency have dried up.

The agency had to turn people away Friday, after helping about 500 area families, said Marie Peterson, agency grants specialist.

"Aiken had about $140,000 to spend. We took applicants until it was exhausted," she said.

The money came from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance program, and South Carolina was one of at least eight states that received funding.

The government deemed the states to be most affected by the protracted heat of the summer.

The money was used to purchase room air conditioners for people who had none or could not pay their energy bills. The program was supposed to end Sept. 30, but the money was used up early because of high demand.

Other programs distributing money from the same program may still have some, but the cash allocated for Aiken and Barnwell counties is used up.

The money was earmarked for emergencies, and the community agency has not received word that any more will come, Ms. Peterson said.

The community action office normally administers programs such as Welfare To Work, Head Start and other energy assistance programs for low-income people. This was the first time in recent memory the agency received emergency cooling money.

However, it was announced Friday that South Carolina will receive $2.176 million more from the Emergency Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program to help the elderly and other low-income residents cope with hot weather.

The state had gotten $4.9 million in July for cooling assistance, but many counties have already run out of money, Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., said Friday.