First State Community Action Agency distributing units

Low-income residents in Delaware may qualify for a no-cost air conditioning unit through First State Community Action Center’s summer cooling program.

First State was created in the 1960s when the federal government first funded a network of regional community centers to combat poverty. The organization is based in Georgetown, in Sussex County, but has locations in Dover and New Castle, as well. Funding for the summer cooling program is provided through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The intense summer heat is a concern because it can adversely affect anyone’s health, especially those already at risk: small children, the elderly, the disabled and those with respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD. Unfortunately, air conditioning can be cost-prohibitive.

“It’s the goal of the summer cooling program to ensure the health and safety of people,” said FSCAC Communications Manager Kaneisha Trott.

First State installed over 500 units in Delaware last year and has installed 100 so far this year.

Not only does First State provide needy families with air conditioning units, they install the unit, assess each home’s electrical systems and provide education on energy conservation.

Qualifying for the summer cooling program is two-pronged. First, you must be 60 years of age or older, be disabled, have a documented breathing issue or have a child aged five or younger in the home. You must prove you qualify with a state-issued I.D. for everyone in your home over 18, birth certificates for anyone under 18, Social Security cards for everyone in the home and a current electric bill.

In addition, you must provide proof of income for everyone in the home and meet income requirements. Household income levels must be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. The federal poverty guidelines are created annually by the Census Bureau.

Both homeowners and renters are eligible for the summer cooling program, but renters must provide both a copy of their lease and permission from their landlord. Participants who received an air conditioning unit from the program in the past 10 years are not eligible.

To apply for the summer cooling program, make an appointment by calling Hristina Ferracci at 302-856-7761, ext. 109. Appointments are held in each county, usually within a few days of making the call, and First State will come directly to the homes of the severely disabled.