Like many people Keshunda Payne got a big surprise after the holidays. But hers wasn't a credit card bill. “The winter season has not even really started well yet and getting a 300 dollar (heating) bill in December,” laughs Payne. That's why she went to the Monroe County Department of Health and Human Services to for help. She applied for a home energy assistance program or HEAP grant. “Monroe county typically issues between 14 and 19 million dollars in heap benefits every year and we serve about 50-thousand customers,” said Program Coordinator Ken Bird. Bird says federally funded program was created to help low income people who may have trouble paying their heating costs. “A lot of people are just barely scraping by and barely able to keep up with their energy bills as we know they've increased quite dramatically over the past year and continue to go up especially oil prices and a lot of people particularly seniors are having difficulty making ends meet,” said Bird. Families have to meet certain income requirements to be eligible for the grant. If they meet the criteria the application is usually processed within three weeks and the money is paid directly to the energy provider. “The program is 100 percent federally funded. Here it’s referred to as LIHEAP or low income heat energy assistance program. The money is allocated by the federal government to the states then the states distributes it to the local counties and the program is administered here at the county level,” said Bird. And that's just the helping hand Payne needs to help her and her kids stay warm this winter. “This is going to help me stay on top of it because without it I wouldn’t be able to pay it as efficiently as I would with it,” added Payne. For more information on H.E.A.P. call 585- 753-6477.