"Think about people who have no utilities," said Bill Beuscher, Snohomish County's program manager of energy and weatherization.
The county's Human Services Department administers the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides help with fuel costs.
Because of a delay in this year's funding, Beuscher
said, until recently the program was only helping families in crisis, those with utilities shut off or about to be shut off.
Phone lines opened last week to make appointments for others needing help.
"We're seeing an extremely large increase in people seeking help, in part because of funding delays and due to the economy," Beuscher
Qualifying incomes for the program are a maximum of $1,128 monthly for a single person or $2,297 for a four-person household.
is glad there are additional utility settlement funds this year, about $500,000 worth.
That money will help people with slightly higher incomes.
"They should call, we're happy to look at their situation," Beuscher
Also, the Snohomish County PUD has Project Pride
, an assistance program operated by the Red Cross.
And Puget Sound Energy
has an energy assistance program, plus its Warm Neighbor fund.
In 2008, Beuscher
said, the county's program helped provide heat to 4,554 households.
Of those, 918 were senior households, 1,552 households included disabled people, "and there were lots of kids" - 902 children age 2 and younger, Beuscher
"Last year was the largest year in the history of the county," Beuscher
"This year I expect it to be as large or larger.
It has a great positive effect on our community, with so many folks unemployed," he