Today is the day Iowans who’re struggling to pay their utility bills can sign up for a one-time government payment to cover some of their heat and electricity costs.
In October, households with someone who is over the age of 60 or someone who is disabled could sign up for the Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance program. Households “in crisis” — facing the threat of disconnection — could also apply in October. “So that month is reserved, but as of today, anybody who is income-eligible can apply for energy assistance,” says Jerry McKimm, manager of the state’s Low Income Heat & Energy Assistance program.
Last year, over 95,000 households in Iowa signed up for the heat and energy assistance grants and McKimm estimates that means up to 250,000 Iowans lived in a household which had trouble paying its utility bills last year. Each household received a one-time grant of about $600, on average.
“This year we look to have about the same amount of money and I fully would expect that we’ll see as many people and perhaps, even, an increase based on the economics out in the real world right at the moment,” McKimm says.
The federal Energy Information Administration predicts heat and electricity bills will be at least eight percent lower this winter. “Of course this nice weather here in the first part of November will go a long ways towards us not needing to use energy,” McKimm says, “regardless of how expensive it is.”
Thousands of Iowans are living in a house which doesn’t have heat or electricity today.
“I have numbers through September, so the rate-regulated utilities that are required to report monthly — this doesn’t include the municipal utilities or the rural electric cooperatives, or these numbers would be even higher — but from April through September of this year there were 31,375 households that were disconnected,” McKimm says. “In that same time period, a little over 19,000 that were reconnected, so that meant on October 1st there was right at 12,000 households across the state that had no power whatsoever.”
Iowans can contact their local “Community Action Agency” office to sign up for Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance grants.