Senior Voice -

By Ken Stewart
Senior Voice 

Apply now for assistance with heating costs

 

December 1, 2020



Congress has released funding for the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), granting Alaska a total of $17.4 million to award assistance to low income households struggling with utility bills for the 2020-2021 season.

LIHEAP is designed to safeguard the health and well-being of Alaskans by​ offsetting the cost of home heating for eligible Alaskan residents. LIHEAP assists households with income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines. The benefit is a one-time payment to the household’s vendor, sent to the vendor, and applied to the customer’s account as a credit. It is open to homeowners and renters.

Funding hurdles

The Senate’s support and passage of funding comes in the wake of the Trump administration’s wish to eliminate funding for LIHEAP, claiming the assistance is an outdated federal program.

In a statement, an administration HSS spokesperson asserted, “LIHEAP… has yet to demonstrate strong performance outcomes. Utility companies, as well as state and local governments, provide significant heating and cooling assistance.”

But while assistance alternatives may be plentiful in states with greater resource access, LIHEAP is Alaska’s sole source of funding for heating assistance, according to Shawnda O’Brien, Director of the Alaska Division of Public Assistance.

Tribal councils across the state also depend on the funding provided by LIHEAP, with a tribal allocation of $7.17 million included in Alaska’s federal funding for the 2020-2021 season.

On October 16, Senator Lisa Murkowski collaborated with the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee in a bipartisan effort asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) for a quick and immediate release of the maximum amount of federal funding for LIHEAP. The funding was approved and released on Nov. 5.

“While the Trump administration has urged Congress to eliminate the program,” said Karina Borger, communications director for Senator Murkowski, “Congress, year after year, has funded the program. As Senator Murkowski continues to work to lower energy costs through legislative efforts, she knows these funds make a crucial difference throughout Alaska to those who have been concerned about their ability to pay to heat their homes.”

How to apply

The Division of Public Assistance is currently restructuring the LIHEAP application system. Rather than centralizing all applications to Juneau, the process is being dispersed to other district offices throughout the state. The LIHEAP website is being updated as changes are finalized.

To apply for LIHEAP, visit dhss.alaska.gov/dpa and select “Heating Assistance” from the “Program” column on the right side of the page for a list of approved vendors, income guidelines and FAQ. For assistance navigating the LIHEAP website during restructuring, email hssdpadirectoroffice@alaska.gov.

To request a mail-in application, call 907-465-3058, extension 1, and leave a message with your name, address and wish for a mail-in application. For issues with requesting an application via mail, contact Shawnda O’Brien at 907-465-5847.

 
 

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