Nearly a quarter-of-a-million Iowa households were unable to pay their heating bills this winter and some will be getting disconnect notices, now that the annual winter moratorium on disconnecting power is over. Lawmakers added $2 million to a catch-all spending bill for Iowa’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Bill Brand, with the Iowa Department of Human Rights, says agencies which distribute the funds may have to start turning people away. “It’s going to depend on what we see as people start getting disconnect notices,” Brand says. “The numbers coming out of the winter for a lot of households are not good.”
Last year in March, 223,000 Iowa households were behind on their bills. That jumped to 245,000 this year. “And they owe something like 47-million dollars to their utility companies, so there’s a lot of concern about the ability of households being able to afford their heating bills coming out of this last winter,” Brand says.
If Governor Branstad signs the measure to add $2 million to LIHEAP, Brand says his agency will put the money to good use. Brand says the money would help LIHEAP contract for propane this summer, when prices are lower, to help low-income households next winter.