OCRC strives to keep lights on and homes warm for islanders

Submitted by Megan Ehrmantraut for OCRC.

Each year, over 100 households rely on the Orcas Community Resource Center and our partnership with local and federal agencies to keep their lights on and homes warm. Programs include OPALCO’s Project Pal, the Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), OPALCO’s Energy Assist Program (EAP), and one time Emergency Assistance awards.

We are grateful to help facilitate OPALCO’S Project Pal program. OPALCO recognizes that many members struggle to make ends meet. Project PAL was created as a vehicle for Co-op members to help their fellow members afford electric bills. Please consider rounding up your bill to help a neighbor in need. Applicants may apply only once in a heating season (October – April). To apply, please contact OCRC or apply online at https://www.opalco.com/about-your-account/energy-assistance-program/project-pal/

OCRC also assists with the LIHEAP program through the Washington State Department of Commerce and the Opportunity Council providing energy assistance to local households. OCRC helps determine eligibility and estimated assistance amount. Senior and disabled individuals living on a fixed income are given first priority, then families with children. Income earning households without children are served when possible. If qualified, the local LIHEAP agency will send payment directly to the energy utility on behalf of the household. OCRC currently has a waitlist for LIHEAP assistance, but please reach out to let us know of your needs.

OPALCO also offers a monthly credit to qualified customers with their Energy Assist Program (EAP). You must currently be on the standard residential rate, be a year-round resident and have qualified for assistance through another program for low-income households. Upon verification, you will qualify for the Energy Assistance Credit. Once the application is processed and approved, the rate will be effective on your next bill. You may apply anytime online at https://www.opalco.com/about-your-account/energy-assistance-program/energy-assist-faq/ or contact OCRC for assistance. Renewal is required annually on April 1st.

We have found that these funding sources alone fall short in helping all of our neighbors. When funds are available, OCRC occasionally assists with utility and heating costs through our Emergency Assistance program. Thanks to the help from our donors, we were able to expand our programs to serve 25 more low-income households, which include veterans, single parents, and those living with disabilities.