The program which helps low-income Iowans with their heating bills will have more money this year.
Christine Taylor oversees the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program known as LIHEAP.
“Our program begins November first of every year, but if there are households that have someone in the home that is 60 years of age or older, or disabled, then those households can begin applying October 1st. This year we do have more money than we have had in the past. We received funds from the American Rescue Act just for that specific part of our program,” Taylor says.
That money is on top of what they will get from the state. She says they will be passing the extra money onto the recipients.
“Regular payment is around 470 dollars and we are anticipating that households will receive an extra bump sometime in the spring, and we’re hoping it will be somewhere around that amount,” according to Taylor.
Taylor says the spring payment is important as it will come after the moratorium that prevents utility shutoffs for lack of payment ends. “Usually when they are coming out a moratorium there are bills that they haven’t been able to pay over the winter — and we can help with that,” she says. “We can be proactive, and we might be able to relieve some of that tension that everyone has been feeling.”
Taylor says they’ve already helped some Iowans through their emergency program. “This year because of the influx of funding we have been able to help people with some really high arrearages — and hopefully that will help them stay on top of their bills a little easier,” Taylor says.
Taylor says the unpaid bills can get quite high. “We’ve seen quite a few at three-thousand or four thousand in arrears. And when it gets that high you begin to feel pretty helpless — like you’ll never be able to pay that down,” Taylor says. “The people that we serve, many of them are working poor, and they simply don’t make enough.”
To find out more about the LIHEAP program — go to the Department of Human Services website.