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A woman adjusts the thermostat in her home.

(The Center Square) – Rhode Island residents needing help paying their utility bills this winter will be getting a helping hand from the state, Gov. Dan McKee said.

The governor announced $21.871 million in federal funds will be utilized in the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) during FY22. The LIHEAP program helps low-income individuals and families pay their heating bills.

“Rhode Islanders should not have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping their utilities on,” McKee said in a news release,. “These federal programs are a lifeline to help people experiencing hardships prevent shut-offs and stay up-to-date on utility bills. On average, LIHEAP helps 30,000 households in Rhode Island every season. I urge eligible Rhode Islanders to apply for these grants and take advantage of energy assistance this year.”

With an additional $30,818,515 the state received in American Rescue Plan Act funding, the state’s LIHEAP fund is set at $52.6 million for the year, according to the release.

McKee also announced the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) will be able to support water and wastewater bills for those needing assistance in early 2022.

Households that are part of the program are eligible for grants ranging from $555 to $1,201 in the initiative that has two key components.

LIHEAP will help a household meet heating costs, and crisis assistance will help a family solve a home heating crisis in the event of a shut-off.

The heating assistance program pays a home heating fuel vendor or utility company, and crisis assistance will pay a regulated energy bill, fuel delivery, or failure to the home heating system if it is not repairable.

LIHWAP grants are issued as a one-time payment no greater than $500 for an eligible applicant’s water and/or wastewater bill.

“We know our neighbors all across the state are still feeling the impact of the pandemic,” Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones said in the release. “We need to help everyone recover from the economic hardship that the pandemic has brought.”

According to the release, 26,141 homes benefited from LIHEAP grants from October 2020 through May. In addition, there were 1,808 crisis grants awarded for heating and 24,692 grants doled out for cooling issues.

The state’s Department of Human Services and Community Action Program agencies, who distribute the funding, are expecting to help 45,000 households. The program aided 13,727 households as of September with $8.9 million in funding spent.

Households must be eligible to meet LIHEAP requirements, which is 60% of Rhode Island’s media income level. A household of four with an income of $64,702 could qualify for the program, which takes family size, fuel type, and minimum delivery requirements into consideration. Plus, applicants do not have to be on any form of public assistance or have an unpaid heating bill to be eligible.

The application period opened Oct. 1 and closes April 30, 2022.

Associate Editor

Brent Addleman is an Associate Editor and a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He has served as editor of newspapers in Pennsylvania and Texas, and has also worked at newspapers in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Kentucky.