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Federal programs offer assistance paying utilities

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
Posted at 6:40 PM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 19:41:24-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Colder temperatures means many people are likely cranking up the heat at home, which means higher utility bills.

This comes as federal officials warned us about a rise in utility costs back in October.

The Energy Information Administration predicted families heating their homes with electricity will pay 6% more and those using natural gas would likely see an increase of 30% compared to last Winter.

Thankfully, there is help out there for those struggling to pay the bills.

Evergy officials want to remind customers to apply for assistance programs.

Maria Lopez said customers in Missouri can apply for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

"There is a ton of federal assistance out there for customers, and it's great because the need is so great as well," Lopez said.

To apply, customers must show proof that they are responsible for paying for the utility bills in their home, are a U.S. citizen, and meet a certain income requirement.

"For Missouri, it's 60% of the state median income," Lopez said.

Once accepted, customers will get an initial benefit that is usually around $636. New this year, they can choose if they want that lump-sum to go toward gas or electric.

Once customers are approved and receive the initial benefit, they are then eligible for up to $1,600 from the Winter Crisis Fund.

For the initial benefit, Lopez said the program is available through the end of September, but she recommends not to wait to apply because the winter crisis funding ends May 31.

Another update made for Missouri allows customers to apply who are not in danger of being disconnected.

In Kansas, a similar program called the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program. The application process is open until March 31.

"It's a much shorter window, but still the average benefit is fairly large, I believe last year customers were receiving on average about $1,400, it's all one lump-sum," Lopez said.

Kansas City, Missouri, resident Kathy Richardson applied for LIHEAP when she was having trouble figuring out how to pay her utility bill.

"It's a great help to me," Richardson said.

She admits she was a little hesitant at first.

"I thought somebody might need the money more than me, but I need the help right now so if you don't ask for help you're not going to receive help so that's how I look at it, and I just thank God I was able to get in the program," Richardson said.

Without the program, Richardson would be trying to figure out other ways to pay her bill. Now, it's one less thing she has to worry about. She hopes to raise awareness about the programs to help out others who need it.

"I think it would be a big help for a lot of senior citizens you know because they're struggling just as well as I'm struggling," Richardson said.

Customers interested in applying for the programs can go to Evergy's website or meet one on one with an Evergy representative at its Evergy Connect office at 1710 Paseo.