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This program is helping people stay cool as temperatures heat up

This program is helping people stay cool as temperatures heat up
Posted at 5:59 PM, Jun 14, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- As the temperature rises, keeping cool isn't just about being comfortable.

It's also a safety matter.

Senior Connections in Richmond, which provides resources for the senior community in the greater Richmond area, provides free fans and air conditioning units to those who are eligible. The program started in May, and in just over a month, the application portal had to close.

“We’ve gone through all of our funding, which is really unfortunate, but it’s a good thing because we know that we’ve reached everyone that we possibly can. Last year we didn’t give away all that we had," said Matthew Jones, the director of service coordination at Senior Connections. “We opened this year one month early because in the past seasons we’ve started in June, and we realized as the weather’s been warming up, we’ve been a little late on that, so we really wanted to make sure we got to people before it got too hot," he said.

No more funding means there are no more free fans or air conditioning units available. Fliers indicated the program was supposed to continue until September, aiming to keep seniors safe from the scorching heat.

That's where Virginia's Department of Social Services comes into play.

Daricka Jones with Hanover County's department says that the county, as well as every county in the Commonwealth, offers some kind of cooling assistance program.

Hanover County can pay up to $600 toward electric bill payments to operate cooling equipment. It can also pay for the repair of a central air conditioning system, as well as the purchase of a whole-house fan or window unit air conditioner.

To be eligible, households must have at least one vulnerable individual aged 60 or older, disabled, or a child under the age of six.

“It used to only be $300 to $400 dollars, the state is increasing it to $600, just because people have high electric bills, and they just don’t have a way of paying it. Now Dominion (Energy) started disconnecting individuals. And so, this is a huge resource for them," Jones said.

Right now, more than 1,200 Virginians are preapproved for cooling assistance. Jones suggested any household in need of assistance reach out to their county's social services office to see if they're eligible to apply.

“A program like this really helps, especially with the rising costs of things these days, having a $600 credit on your energy assistance bill is a huge benefit," she said.

The county's program runs until August 15, 2022, or until the money runs out.

Senior Connections is also seeking funding help from community partners, as well as donations of usable fans.

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