The Biden administration is distributing an additional $ 4.5 billion to help low-income Americans cover heating costs during a second pandemic winter, with cold states receiving the largest share, according to a state breakdown released Friday.
The increase in funding – which is part of the coronavirus relief package of last year’s $ 1.9 trillion US bailout – more than doubled the aid program’s normal funding level low-income home energy, or LIHEAP. These funds represent the largest credit in a single year since the inception of the program in 1981.
The Associated Press obtained a pre-copy of the state’s allocation breakdown, which shows a clear prioritization of cold states with higher heating costs. For example, Minnesota received nearly $ 274 million in home energy assistance for needy residents. Meanwhile, Texas, which has a population five times the size, received just $ 10 million more. New York State, with a population of less than 20 million compared to Texas’s 29 million, received just under $ 876 million.
President Joe Biden’s administration also announced the pledge of seven major utility companies across the country to ensure no blackouts for clients seeking help and to identify and notify eligible beneficiaries. government assistance.
The new commitments, announced on Friday morning, come from Atlantic City Electric, Baltimore Gas and Electric, ComEd, Delmarva Power, Pacific Gas & Electric, PECO and Pepco. They join seven other large utility companies that made similar commitments late last year.
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Electricity and natural gas prices are about 11% higher than a year ago, according to the Ministry of Labor’s consumer price index. Residential heating oil prices are up about 40% from a year ago, according to the Energy Information Administration. The magnitude of the increase has moderated in recent months as wholesale heating oil prices are about where they were in early October.
The aid is intended to help cushion the shock of higher energy costs in winter. But Republican lawmakers have said the comprehensive relief plan, which was enacted by the Democratic president in March, caused higher levels of inflation by pumping too much money into the economy.
How to apply for assistance with the energy bill of a home
To find out where to apply for federal assistance to pay home energy bills, Click here for a state-by-state information guide. You can also find a list of local agencies helping families apply for energy assistance by searching your county here.
For more information on where you can apply for LIHEAP, call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) toll-free number at 1-866-674-6327 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. ET to 7 p.m. ET . You can also email your questions to [email protected]
Who is eligible for the program?
Anyone who needs financial assistance for home energy costs is eligible for this program.
If you or a family member is currently participating in certain other government benefit programs, such as SNAP, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), you may be automatically eligible.
To be eligible, you must have an annual family income (before taxes) less than the following amounts:
Will my electricity bill be fully covered by the program?
Probably not. LIHEAP is not meant to pay all of your energy costs for the year, season, or even month.
In many states, you can only get help with your primary source of heat. For example, if your house is heated with gas, you will likely only get help with your gas bill, but not with your electric bill, as it powers other utilities. So you might get help with either bill.
Due to the way LIHEAP funds are distributed, some states receive more LIHEAP funds than others and are able to pay higher benefits.
The greatest benefits go to households with the highest household energy costs or needs, given income and family size. The amount of help you get will depend on where you live, your income, your energy costs or needs, and the size of your family.
Can LIHEAP help pay other home bills?
No. LIHEAP funds can only be used to help pay for heating or cooling your home. Generally, LIHEAP funds cannot be used to pay water, sewer or telephone bills. An exception is when water is used for air conditioning, such as in an evaporative cooler. In this case, LIHEAP funds can be used to pay water bills.
Can LIHEAP help me repair my furnace or my air conditioner?
Yes. Energy Assistance Program funds can be used to help repair broken or inefficient furnaces or air conditioners. However, not all states offer this type of help and those have different rules on who is eligible. Check with your state’s program or local county agency for qualifications.
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Associated Press editors Ashraf Khalil and Josh Boak contributed to this report.