Oklahoma has experienced a mild winter compared to other portions of the United States. For those who have been in a house with a broken heater while temperatures outside are in the 40s, mild can be a relative term.

Tribal assistance is there to help. CPN’s Employment and Training Program is able to administer Low Income Home Energy Assistance funds to eligible applicants. Employment and training assists individuals in its service areas with employment opportunities, workforce training and related social services, one of which is LIHEAP funding.

“We negotiated with the State of Oklahoma to modify the formula for our share of funding. This was due to insufficient funds to fully meet the needs in our service area,” said CPN Employment and Training Assistant Director Margaret Zientek. “We successfully negotiated an increase in funding from approximately $26,000 to $132,000.”

To be eligible for CPN LIHEAP, the applying household must have at least one person who is a member of a federally recognized tribe, meet income guidelines and reside within the department’s service area. This area encompasses Pottawatomie, Lincoln, Payne and Cleveland counties as well as areas east of Post Road in Oklahoma County. The household must not have received LIHEAP funds from any other source such as DHS or one of the other area tribes.  

Using a formula factoring low-income, heating fuel type, number of bedrooms, household numbers and other special conditions, LIHEAP funds are distributed from Oct. 1, 2014 to April 10, 2015 for the winter season and June 29, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2015 for summer cooling.

All funds distributed are contingent upon a fully completed application and verification from other LIHEAP programs.
LIHEAP assistance isn’t solely relegated to financial support though, with employment and training also providing physical heating and cooling units when available.

“Additionally, we have purchased space heaters to provide temporary heat assistance. If available, we offer these to qualifying households for the temporary need. We do the same thing with window AC units. When the units are returned, we service them and return to storage until the next season,” said Zientek.

In the department’s service area, LIHEAP funding can make a life changing difference for those in need. According to Zientek, employment and training customers are in many cases, patrons of Tribal housing, elder or child care services. Far from the unregulated handouts some government assistance critics stereotype such services as, CPN Employment and Training staff ensure a number of Tribal, state, federal qualifiers are met before assistance is distributed.

Households receiving certain types of income are considered categorically eligible, with income from that source excluded. These excluded types of income include Social Security funds, veterans disability, child support, DHS-SNAP and commodities.

“We gather all income received in a household for the past 12 months,” said Zientek. “For example, a household of two, with combined countable income less than $26,149 is eligible for this program. For a household of four, $32,302 is the maximum.”

If you or someone you know may be in need of LIHEAP assistance or any of the other programs the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Employment and Training Department oversees, please visit https://www.potawatomi.org/services/career/ or call 405-598-0797.