LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS) -- The long lines may be a thing of the past when it comes to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program in Louisville, but for those needing a helping hand during the winter months, the opportunity is still there.

"My bill just hit me in the worst time," said one woman who was at the office seeking help.

The woman, who chose to remain anonymous, is one of many in the Louisville area seeking assistance from the program, commonly known as LIHEAP, which opened sign-ups for its crisis phase Monday. The program helps those who need assistance paying their utility bills - people who have disconnect notices, and new this year, people with past due balances.

"With the way the weather has been, it's been extremely cold, we'll be able to assist those clients," Brandon O'Neal, the program supervisor with the Office of Resilience & Community Services, said. "And that's dear to our hearts is we'll be able to help those in need in this time."

"It's very important because then I don't have to pick between food or heat because heat will win right now," the woman said.

The woman said without LIHEAP, she would not be able to keep the lights on at her home.

"I would probably with family somewhere or a homeless shelter because truthfully when you can't pay that bill, it gets hard," she said.

LG&E and KU said the first week of 2018 has been uncharacteristically cold, with customer energy demands setting a record for a winter weekend. While it is still too early to know the exact effect of the cold weather on monthly bills, LG&E said weather and customer habits do make an impact when it comes to how much customers pay. And with winter still in the early stages, LIHEAP said it is ready to help.

"The last couple of years, we've served 25,000 clients," O'Neal said. "We have the capacity to assist those clients."

For the woman, she said she only uses LIHEAP when she is not able to pay her bills on her own. She said she would not want to take away the opportunity for someone else who is in need of some assistance, something she encourages others in her predicament to take advantage of during the cold winter.

"Put your pride to the side. Nobody needs all that," she said. "When you need your lights, you need your heat, a lot of people have medical issues, you need help. And there's nothing wrong with asking for help."

According to the Office of Resilience and Community Services, to qualify for LIHEAP:

"Applicants must be Jefferson County residents with a household income at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (e.g. for a household of four, the gross monthly income cannot exceed $2,665.00).

Applicants must also meet one of these eligibility requirements:

- Received a brown bill, disconnect notice from their utility service provider, or

- Received a current bill with a past due amount, or

- Received an eviction notice if their utilities are included in the rent, or

- Within 4 days of running out of bulk fuel; or

- Within 10 days of running out of pre-paid electric services

People looking for help should schedule an appointment by calling 502-991-8391 or online here.

More information on the LIHEAP program and what needs to be brought to appointments can be found here.