The recent sub-zero temperatures brought out a lot of insulated clothes and layering of articles, but it also brought out that in Kentucky many children are at the mercy of inefficient heating in their homes. Low income families may have trouble paying their utility bills in January. There are services to help.

This coming Monday is the first day to sign up for the crisis phase of a federal program called LIHEAP, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Greg Stotlmyre, with the Kentucky News Connection, spoke with Michael Moynahan, the energy program director for Community Action Kentucky, the agency that oversees the program.

He told Greg, "They have to be facing an emergency situation where they've either received a disconnect from their utility company or they have run out of their bulk fuel."

When qualified, the applicant is helped by crisis assistance, which provides up to $400  sent directly to the utility company or bulk fuel vendor. Moynahan says the average assistance amount is about $250.

An example of someone being helped is Peggy Sanchez, a single mom of five from Paris. She says the assistance from Community Action will help her family stay in the home they rent. "Oh my gosh, without the assistance I wouldn't be able to pay my gas bills and we would be without heat and water," she says.

To be eligible, family income must be at 130 percent of the federal poverty level or below. For a family of four that's roughly $2,500 a month before taxes.

Moynahan says LIHEAP crisis funding dropped by about 3.5 percent this year. Combine that with the frigid start to January and he expects the funds to be gone before the program ends March 31.

The program is based on a first-come, first-serve policy. So, Moynahan says, "So, we encourage anyone who is eligible for it and who's facing that disconnect status to apply as early as they can."

Around 100,000 Kentucky families through a tough patch this winter.

To see if you or soemone you know may qualify, call this number: 1-800-456-3452.

Stay warm!