Assistance for utility service through the Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program (E-HEAP) begins Friday, and officials are warning about organizations illegally making appointments for potential customers.

In Summit County, customers are supposed to make their own appointments by calling Akron Summit Community Action or through a home-health assistant, caseworker or other representative of a recognized social service agency.

The Ohio Development Services Agency is investigating reports at least one group in Summit County is advertising services on the Internet and Facebook and illegally making appointments for customers.

It is unknown if the group or groups are charging a fee for making the appointments, which is not allowed, officials with ASCA said.

“These groups may disguise themselves as nonprofit organizations, but they are not. They may take payment for a HEAP appointment that [should be] free for qualifying families. Do not use these services,” said Stacey Gardner-Buckshaw, director of social and special programs for ASCA.

Eligible Summit County residents can make an appointment for the E-HEAP program by calling 1-866-504-7400.

Walk-in service is available at the agency’s West Akron office, at 670 W. Exchange St., daily from Friday through Nov. 12 (except Nov. 11, when the office will be closed in observance of Veterans Day).

Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. Walk-in service will resume Nov. 18 and continue on Mondays only.

Scheduling is determined on a first-come, first-served basis to customers whose utility services are off, when a service needs transferring, when a customer needs new service or for those out of bulk fuel. Appointments are not for customers with disconnection notices; they must call the toll-free E-HEAP appointment line at 1-866-504-7400.

For eligible clients, E-HEAP will cover the following:

•?Up to $175 for people whose utility service has been disconnected or needs to be transferred.

•?Up to $175 for people with a disconnection notice from their gas and/or electric utility company.

•?Up to $750 for people who have less than a 25 percent supply of bulk fuel.

Eligibility for E-HEAP is qualified by household income and size.

Some examples are a one-person household with an annual income of $20,108; two people, $27,143; and four people, $41,213.

E-HEAP applicants must bring documentation to verify total household income for the immediate past three months; Social Security cards and birth dates for all persons in the household; the landlord’s name, address and phone number if renting; and proof of an emergency situation, with disconnection notices on utility bills, turn-on orders, or, in the case of bulk fuel, a less than a 25 percent supply.

A household can apply for E-HEAP once between Nov. 1 and March 31, 2014.