The state program that gives grants to poor Iowans who can’t pay their heat and electric bills has nearly two MILLION more dollars this year to hand out. But Jerry McKim, director of the Iowa Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance program, says Iowans will have bigger bills this year because of higher heating fuel prices, and it’s time for the feds to release $200 MILLION in emergency funding to the states. That money is only released by order of the president. On Wednesday of this week, the President ordered $100 MILLION to states. Iowa’s share is $1.7 MILLION. McKim says if the additional $200 MILLION in emergeny funds are released, Iowa would get about $3 MILLION more. “We’re seeing an increased demand by folks signing up for assistance,” McKim says. McKim says that would mean he won’t have to turn away people who qualify for assistance, and the average, one-time grant might be higher. With the money he has available today, McKim estimates the average payment will be $325. He predicts 85,000 Iowa households will qualify for Low Income Heat and Energy Assistant grants this winter, partly because so many haven’t been able to pay their bills from last winter yet. In October, Iowa utilities reported nearly $18 MILLION worth of unpaid home heating and electric bills.
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