The federal Health and Human Services administration will send more money to Iowa to help low-income families pay heat bills this winter. Thirteen-Million dollars is on the way and Jerry McKim, head of the Low Income Heating Assistance
The program definitely needs the funds, McKim says, pointing out up till now the grant he could give each family was the same as last year even though the cost of heating’s up 25-percent from the previous winter, and that’s with an exceptionally mild winter. The money will let the program make a supplemental payment that can at get closer to covering that cost-of-heating increase. In winter, some customers who fall behind on their bills can avoid having their heat or lights shut off, but McKim says that’s not much protection.
That only applies to people who’re signed up with the LIHEAP program, and even for them it expires at midnight March 31st. Beginning April first, he says, anybody can be disconnected if they haven’t worked out a payment plan with their local utility. He says it’s scary how many households have fallen behind on their energy bills this winter,.
The total of past-due accounts of residential customers topped 35-MILLION dollars, 25-percent higher than February of last year and the highest total reported in the last eight years. That’s only the state utilities regulated by the state and doesn’t include municipal utilities of rural electric co-ops, so he’s sure the actual numbers statewide are even higher.