Durham County

Colder weather is ahead. If you need help, here’s where you can get it.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is accepting applications for the state's Low-Income Energy Assistance Program beginning Friday.

Households including a person aged 60 or older, or an individual receiving disability benefits and services through the N.C. Division of Aging and Adult Services, are eligible to sign up for assistance Dec. 1–31. All other households may apply from Jan. 1–March 31, or until funds are exhausted.

The energy assistance program is federally funded and provides a one-time payment directly to the utility company to help eligible households pay heating bills during the cold-weather months. Last year, the program provided about $38 million to help more than 120,000 households pay their heating bills from December 2016 through March 2017.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a colder, wetter winter in the northern United States, and warmer, drier weather in Southern states because of the effects of La Niña.

“If La Nina conditions develop, we predict it will be weak and potentially short-lived, but it could still shape the character of the upcoming winter,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said on the agency’s website. “Typical La Niña patterns during winter include above average precipitation and colder than average temperatures along the Northern Tier of the U.S. and below normal precipitation and drier conditions across the South.”

Durham residents needing assistance with heating bills may call the county’s Social Services Department at 919-560-8000 or visit www.dconc.gov/Home/Components/News/News/2942/ online. Orange County residents may call 919-245-2800 or visit the www.orangecountync.gov/departments/social_services/low_income_energy_assistance_program_(lieap).php.

A list of county social services departments is available at www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/dss/local-county-social-services-offices.

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1