A safeguard to ensure Alaskans have heat in their homes has a backlog

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — The state says there's a backlog of people applying for a program that ensures that heat stays on in their homes.

The Heating Assistance Program (HAP) is a safeguard to offset the cost of home heating for eligible Alaskan residents.

But a recent software upgrade has created unanticipated problems.

"The backlog for this program is due to having to upgrade to a new system this past fall. Implementation of the new software has been moving quickly and system defects are being addressed as a priority with the vendor and Information Technology staff," Shawnda O'Brien the director of the Division of Public Assistance wrote in an email.

O'Brien wrote that more than 5,700 applications were submitted this season, which runs from Oct 1st through April 30th.

"There is currently about 1,800 applications that need to be worked on and an additional 465 that have been pended due to missing information. There are 515 applications that are over 45 days," O'Brien wrote.

The wait time is averaging about 63 days with the staff processing about 50 applications a day, according to O'Brien.

Terri Boyle says she applied recently after her husband lost his job.

She says she was trying to be proactive, but was told that because of the backlog, her application was 'going in a drawer.'

"We took a major cut in income when I became self-employed, and when he lost his job, that put us in a bind right there," Boyle said.

Boyle says her Enstar bill is $243 and the MEA bill is $97.

O'Brien says priority is given for several issues such as the homes is about to have its service cut.

Households that submitted applications more than 45 days ago are being expedited according to O'Brien.

Anyone with an urgent need should call (800) 470-3058 or the hotline at (888) 804-6330 (outside Anchorage), (907) 269-5777 (in Anchorage) or email liheap@alaska.gov.

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