(HorizonPost.com) – Despite billions in federal subsidies available to help low-income households pay their energy bills, only a fraction of qualified Americans are receiving the money, the Associated Press reported.
Nationwide, almost 30 million households are eligible for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), but less than 3 percent of them are receiving the subsidy, according to recent federal data. By comparison, 80 percent of eligible Americans receive food stamps.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the program, most states run out of federal funding every year. Cleveland University’s Michelle Graff, who studies the federal subsidy, told the Associated Press that unless there is “substantial government intervention,” it is likely more Americans will be unable to afford the rising costs of energy.
The LIHEAP program was initially established to help low-income Americans pay for heating bills in the winter and has been slow to provide assistance during the heat of summer.
In Arizona, the state with the hottest temperatures in the country, only 11,600 low-income households receive LIHEAP despite approximately 650,000 households qualifying for the assistance program.
Some states only offer energy assistance in the winter, and the states that do provide assistance in the summer months often run out of funds before the weather turns hot.
While visiting Arizona earlier this month, President Biden promoted the LIHEAP program, calling it “crucial” help for low-income families. The president claimed that even after the summer heat ends, many low-income families will continue seeing high energy bills.
Samira Burns, an official with Health and Human Services said in a statement that the LIHEAP budget was doubled in the 2021 American Rescue Plan, and Health and Human Services has updated its guidance to assist states in targeting support during hot weather.
Burns said that the administration has made it a priority to ensure that those households eligible are seeking and receiving energy assistance.
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