Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Office of Community Services (OCS) at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), announced awarding $3.37 billion in relief funds through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help low-income individuals and families afford home heating costs this winter and cover unpaid utility bills. These funds will also help families make cost-effective home energy repairs. Along with $4.5 billion in LIHEAP funds in the American Rescue Plan Act released in May, the historic level of resources available to grantees will help mitigate the impact felt by families from rising home energy prices this winter.
The United States is leading the world in economic recovery. However, households across the U.S. are expected to spend more to heat their homes this winter compared to last year, as global oil and gas production hasn’t increased as quickly as demand as the world recovers from the pandemic. The resources being announced today will help some of the most vulnerable American families cover the higher costs relative to pandemic lows last year. This winter, the Biden-Harris Administration will also work with states, localities, tribes, and energy providers to deploy American Rescue Plan funds and other resources from across the government to address the impact of these costs.
“This law has helped low-income families pay their home heating and cooling bills for decades. With heating bills expected to increase this winter, LIHEAP is more important than ever for people struggling to make ends meet. This program helps advance our mission of protecting the health and wellbeing of all Americans,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “With these additional funds, the program will offer relief to millions of working families hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The LIHEAP allocation is timed to make energy assistance funds available to states, the District of Columbia, territories, and tribes ahead of the winter heating season. LIHEAP grantees will be able to use the funding appropriated by Congress through the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 117-43), along with funding made available through the American Rescue Plan Act, to assist more than 5 million households this winter.
Dr. Lanikque Howard, the Director of ACF’s Office of Community Services which oversees LIHEAP, said, “Low-income households spend three times more of their income on energy costs than more affluent households, with almost 70 percent of low-income households experiencing high energy burden. And many people’s financial circumstances have drastically changed during the pandemic, including people losing jobs and struggling to find suitable work again, resulting in more people trying to keep up with essential monthly bills who aren’t used to needing such support. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that collectively we do everything we can to ensure that individuals and families are aware of and apply for LIHEAP assistance this winter.”
Individuals interested in applying for energy assistance should contact their local, state, territory, or tribal LIHEAP agency or call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) hotline toll-free at: 1-866-674-6327. Individuals can also search for a local intake center near them by clicking here .
Source: US Department of Health and Human Services