LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Department of Social services recently received about $974,000 in energy crisis intervention funds that can be distributed to Robesonians who face life-threatening conditions because they have no heat or air conditioning.
According to Sandra Lee, the manager for DSS who oversees the local Crisis Intervention Program, the money is from two sources — the state and Duke Energy. Annual state funding for the program is $872,451, with Duke Energy providing $101,581, Lee said.
The money from Duke Energy, which can only be distributed to Robesonians whose power is supplied by that company, was provided through two sources. The first source, settlement funds distributed to all state counties following the recent merger of the Duke and Progress Energy power companies, totaled $99,540. Lee said. The remaining $2,041 allocation is from Duke’s “Energy Neighbor” program.
Lee said the state’s annual allocation of energy crisis intervention funding to the county is down from last year’s total of $1,406,989. She could not say exactly why less money was received.
Lee said that the requirements for people to receive assistance from these programs are strict.
“There must be a heating or cooling condition that is health threatening,” she said. “These funds cannot be used just because someone needs to pay their light bill.”
Lee said that the county’s Crisis Intervention Program assists a significant number of Robesonians annually. Last year, she said, the money was distributed in 5,466 cases. Since the beginning of this fiscal year, which began July 1, until the end of July, there were 717 cases served, Lee said.
“A lot of people do experience a crisis and depend on these funds. We see 30 to 50 a day during peak seasons (winter and summer), ” she said. “Without these funds we have to refer people to the Robeson County Church and Community Center, and they also have limited funds.”
Lee said that people facing an energy crisis can apply for these funds at any time at the county Social Services complex on N.C. 711.