August 9, 2017 – Low-income families living in Tucson, Arizona who need assistance paying their utility bills will now have to go through a new program administered by the Pima County Community Services, Employment and Training Department (CSET). This new change is due to the change in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program previously only covered people living outside of Tucson city limits, but now helps all of Pima County. This change went into effect on July 1, 2017.
LIHEAP Program Manager Manita Cervantes said, “There's different limits as far as what we can pay, but we could potentially assist with their [Tucson Electric Power] bill, Southwest Gas, Tucson Water during summer months, and only if they have a swamp cooler.”
The department is piloting a scheduling tool that enables agencies to schedule residents for appointments. The pilot includes Interfaith Community Services, Portable Practical Educational Preparation, the Tucson Urban League, and the Pima County Community Action agency.
“Previously, what would happen is Tucson Urban League would serve city residents. Now, effective July 1, Pima County is actually going to be serving city and county residents. There will no longer be a separation,” said Cervantes.
Rosemary Cora-Cruz, a community services manager, said, “Low-income residents needing help with their utility bills can begin the process through a number of agencies in the area.”
Cora-Cruz also stated that agencies cannot accept walk-ins and the key is that applicants call for an appointment.