Applications are being accepted for a program that helps low-income households in southwestern Virginia pay utility bills.

The nonprofit Dollar Energy Fund partners with companies to administer the Hardship Program.

In Virginia, the program provides grants to maintain or restore service for eligible customers of Appalachian Power, Columbia Gas of Virginia and Virginia American Water.

Households can apply once per utility between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30, 2014, to avoid termination. The maximum grant amount is $500.

This year, Appalachian Power will delay grant payments for customers until Dec. 1 and reduce the maximum amount to $300. The delay will allow for more funds to be available to cover heating termination notices in the late winter months.

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