Those planning to head to May Park today to sign up for help with their winter heating bills should just stay home and try to stay warm.
That's because the program that provides financial assistance to low-income families is almost out of money - 20 days before the official start of winter.
The CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority usually opens its application process for the low-income energy assistance program Dec. 1 and had planned to do so with a sign-up at May Park Community Center. Last year about 300 people signed up on the first day, Executive Director Gloria Lewis said.
"It would have been worse this year," she said. "It would be chaos."
The program received about $1 million in the fall for the 13-county area the authority serves. On Nov. 1, the elderly and the homebound were allowed to begin applying for assistance.
Lola Johnson, the authority's operations and community services director, said she believes concern over predicted skyrocketing heating bills led to the hundreds of applications that have flooded her office.
"This is just one-time assistance, and winter hasn't even begun," she said.
The program could receive more money from Congress in the next two to four weeks, but that's just speculation on her part, she said.
There is still some money available to provide assistance, Ms. Lewis said.
"It's first come, first served," she said.
They will also have money available from crisis funding for those who are in imminent danger of having their heat source disconnected.
"It's not totally gone," Ms. Lewis said. "Not yet."
Reach Amy Allyn Swann at (706) 823-3338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.