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The State of Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services wants the public to know that there is help for those having trouble paying record high energy and even water bills.
Governor Greg Gianforte announced last week that $27 million in federal funding is available to help Montanans with heating bills this winter and to weatherize more homes.
Sara Loewen, Energy and Community Services Bureau Chief with DPHHS described the program known by the acronym LIHEAP, the Low Income Energy Assistance Program.
“The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, can help pay a part of the winter energy bills and may be able to assist with furnace emergencies for eligible households,” said Loewen. “Eligibility for assistance is based on your income and resource limits. So, for example, for a family of three, the upper income limit is $44,000 a year. Both homeowners and renters may apply for these programs.”
Loewen said the DPHHS has been allowed to tap into funds from the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act)
“We are also lucky to have additional funding through the American Rescue Plan Act, which will allow more households to get the help they need,” she said. “This additional assistance could not have come at a more important time with fuel bills projected to rise significantly this winter, which could cause many low income families to have to choose between heating their home this winter or paying for food, medicine and other essentials.”
Loewen said the LIHEAP program helps low income families with other costs, as well.
“We also have a weatherization assistance program that has also had an influx of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act,” she said. “The weatherization program is able to do a study of each individual home and identify low cost energy efficient measures to be installed which could include additional insulation, air sealing, and duct work, which allows the home owner or renter to save on their energy bills year after year.”
Loewen provided the website to access and apply for help from the LIHEAP program, which also helps families pay their water bills.
“So you can find more information at liheap.mt.gov That's L I H E A P dot m t.gov or you can contact your local HRDC which can also be found at LIHEAP dot mt.gov,”she said. “You can submit a combined LIHEAP water and weatherization application to your HRDC (Human Resource Development Council).”
LIHEAP is a federally-funded program that already provides $21 million annually to Montana to reduce the home energy burden for low-income households. DPHHS works to ensure that households with the lowest income and highest energy burden receive the greatest level of assistance. Payments are made directly to energy providers.
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