Assistance has arrived for Arkansans with outstanding energy bills. A total of $8.2 million in federal funding, through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, has been allocated to aid individuals in meeting their energy needs.
According to Arkansas Energy Office (AEO) director Mitchell Simpson, the funding will be used for a supplemental crisis program and for an air conditioning program. The crisis program will receive the bulk of the funding – $6.97 million – while the air conditioning program will receive $1.23 million.
The crisis program is part of the Arkansas Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides both regular assistance and crisis intervention in regards to residential energy costs.
“This, with the $8.2 million that we received through the federal CARES Act, Arkansas is able to launch and enhance the LIHEAP program. We will do that by deploying LIHEAP through two allocations. $6.97 million will go to a supplemental crisis program, and $1.23 million will go to an air conditioning program. These programs will assist low-income Arkansans who have accumulated larger-than-normal past-due notices on their electric and natural gas bills or who have depleted their supply of winter fuel such as propane, natural gas or even wood,” Simpson said.
The aid available for enhanced supplemental crisis program has been increased to $1,500 with up to two applications per households. Typically, there is a cap of $500. In addition, the new program also provides assistance for winter fuel as well as utility costs.
The Summer Cooling Program is aimed at low-income, vulnerable individuals who require assistance with electricity bills. According to a chart provided by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the program requires a minimum of $100 paid to an electricity utility but no crisis is required.
“The benefit of that program is that if the household has central air conditioning, that household can benefit from cleaning or repair. If that repair is not able or possible without the guidelines of this program, that household may qualify to receive a window air conditioning unit,” Simpson said.
To qualify for this program, individuals must be low income and meet one of four criteria. Simpson listed the four criteria that a qualifying household must either have an elderly occupant, a child aged five or under, someone with a disability or someone with a medical condition that requires air conditioning. This condition must be verified by a medical statement.
Both programs are slated to launch next Monday, July 27. Hutchinson said the programs will last through Sept. 21, 2021 or until the funding is depleted.