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Heating aid program has spent half of budget

COLUMBUS— Winter doesn’t officially arrive until Saturday, yet a program to help needy Ohioans pay their heating bills has already spent half the money budgeted for the season.

Officials overseeing the state’s Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, say it’s under pressure from higher fuel costs. They say they’ll have to stretch the program’s $37 million winter heating fund by tapping into the $3 million set aside to help people pay their cooling bills next summer.

Each heating season, households struggling to keep their homes heated may receive a one-time payment from HEAP. With prices for propane and home heating oil particularly high, the Ohio Department of Development says the program’s maximum payment amount has been raised from $450 to $600.

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