Christine Taylor, with the Iowa Department of Human Rights, oversees the state’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.
“We’ve had approximately 73,000 people approved for the program, so once the moratorium is over, all of those people are at risk,” Taylor said. Under Iowa law, utility customers approved for LIHEAP cannot have their natural gas or electric service cut off due to unpaid bills between November 1 and April 1. Taylor is encouraging those customers to contact their local community action agency if they’re unable to catch up on their utility debt.
“They may be eligible for crisis assistance, which might help them stay connected,” Taylor said. LIHEAP is a federally funded program. Iowa households that qualified this winter received an average payment of $450 to help them pay for utilities. According to Taylor, Iowans who qualify for LIHEAP could also avoid losing gas and electric service with a note from their doctor.
“If they have a medical condition that would cause a serious issue, they can certainly contact their utility company and possibly get a note from their doctor that explains how detrimental it would be to turn off their utility service,” Taylor said.
All utility customers in Iowa, including those who don’t qualify for energy assistance, can often maintain their service by entering into a payment agreement with their provider to pay accumulated debt over time.