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Cooling assistance goes quickly in Oklahoma

In about a week, Oklahoma used up $16 million available to help low-income residents with their summer cooling bills.
BY JAY F. MARKS Modified: July 19, 2013 at 9:07 pm •  Published: July 20, 2013

It took only a week for Oklahoma to burn through $16 million allocated to help low-income residents with their summer cooling costs this year.

But that isn't unusual, said Department of Human Services spokesman Mark Beutler.

He said DHS ran out of money three days after it started taking applications for the federally funded program in 2011. It took four days in 2012, though Oklahoma received $22 million each year.

Less money available

Beutler said DHS tried to stretch Oklahoma's share of Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds this year because there was less money available.

“We lowered our benefits significantly this year to help more people,” he said.

Benefits for a single-person household were cut from $200 to $120, but the state still ran out of money quickly.

DHS cut off applications after receiving about 74,000 requests, but Beutler said he hasn't heard about anyone who still needed assistance.

The summer cooling program is one of three federally funded programs administered by DHS.

The others provide assistance with winter heating bills or crisis funds to help people who are about to have their utilities shut off.