Farmington — This month, the Navajo Nation Department for Self Reliance will start accepting applications to help eligible Native Americans with their heating and cooling costs.
Under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, eligible households can receive help for purchasing wood, coal or pellets; for paying utility or propane companies for heating expenses; or for paying utility companies for electricity used to cool homes.
The energy assistance program can also help with costs associated with weatherizing the home or repairing or purchasing a wood or pellet stove.
To qualify, the head of household must be Native American and reside on the Navajo Nation, including the areas of Alamo, Ramah and Tóhajiilee.
Applicants must show proof of income for all household members.
The energy assistance amount an eligible household receives depends on the family's gross income, and families whose gross income is less than 110 percent of the National Poverty Guidelines will receive more than those whose gross income is between 111 and 150 percent of the poverty guidelines.
That means if a family of four applied and their annual gross income fell below $23,550, they would qualify for the maximum assistance amount.
If the same family earned more than $23,550 but fell below the 150 percent rate of $35,325, they would still qualify but for a lower amount of assistance.
The energy assistance program is being administered by the Navajo Nation Department for Self Reliance, formerly the Navajo Nation Program for Self Reliance.
It has been administered by the tribe through direct funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for several years, but this is the first year it will be managed by the Department for Self Reliance.
The department will start accepting applications for the energy assistance program starting Jan. 21.
To apply, the applicant must attend one of the orientations, which start Monday and take place throughout the month at locations across the reservation.
"Everyone who applies has to attend an orientation," said Toni Etsitty, public information officer for the department.
Etsitty added that a household can only receive assistance once a year, meaning if help was provided to cover heating costs, the family cannot receive help for cooling costs in the summer.
According to the Navajo Nation Department of Family Services, the energy assistance program helped 9,025 households with heating last year.
It also helped 434 households with cooling, 339 with weatherization and 3,859 with energy emergency assistance related to disconnection notices, depletion in wood or coal, or inoperable furnaces.
In addition to the energy assistance program, the Department for Self Reliance also took over management of the tribe's general assistance program, burial assistance program and emergency assistance program this year.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.