By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If you broke out your winter coat today, you know that the colder weather is approaching.

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And area residents having a difficult time making ends meet can get some help paying their heating bills this winter, through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, run by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

LIHEAP provides, on average, a grant of $250 per heating season to those eligible.  A family of four would require an income below approximately $35,000.

Doug Oliver (at lectern in photo), of Philadelphia Gas Works, says that although about 150,000 of its 500,000 customers are eligible for LIHEAP, about 60,000 of those 150,000 don’t apply for it.

Facing that issue,  Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare secretary Beverly Mackereth today visited a neighborhood community center in Philadelphia: the Dixon House, on South 20th Street, in the Point Breeze section of the city, on the first day of sign-up for this year’s LIHEAP program.

Rahsaan was among those signing up.

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“I got to get back on my feet,” he said today.  “I’m behind on my bills so I need help with one of them, and I’ll work out the rest.”

Mackereth, the welfare secretary (second from left at table, in purple jacket), said they have fixed problems that caused last year’s complaints about unprocessed applications.

“Even though, when we were backlogged, people did not go without heat, it meant the utilities did not get their dollars,” she said.

She expects the federally funded program to be cut by five percent this season, because of the sequestration in Washington.


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