Home » Utility assistance demand is high in Iowa as inflation pressure meets cold weather

Utility assistance demand is high in Iowa as inflation pressure meets cold weather

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Snow falls on the Cedar River southeast of Cedar Rapids in February 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — With cold and snow already reaching Iowa this month, local and state organizations know there will be higher demand for utility assistance as cold winters face inflationary pressures.

Across the United States, many households are spending more on heating than they have in the last 25 years.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Winter Fuel Outlook, this spending projection is the result of a combination of higher fuel prices and increased heating demand due to the expected cold weather this winter. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made the market even tighter.

US households could face an average electricity bill of $1,359 this winter, the highest since at least 1997, according to administration data.

J’Nae Peterman, Waypoint’s director of housing services, said Lynn County, like the rest of the country, is suffering from a housing crisis.

“The majority of our community — renters and homeowners — are struggling,” Peterman said. I’m doing my best to do something with my family during this time, so I’m at risk of sacrificing my payments, and it’s going to be harder for families to stay on budget this winter.”

Waypoint does not provide utility assistance directly, but connects clients to other organizations such as the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP). However, Waypoint recognizes the need for utility assistance based on the number of housing services programs that connect individuals to housing resources or help find additional employment. Waypoint serves Lynn, Benton and Jones counties.

“Over the past two years, we have served between 3,000 and 13,000 people in our housing services program,” says Peterman.

Serving Benton, Dubuque, Delaware, Iowa, Jackson, Johnson, Jones, Lynn and Washington counties, HACAP provides direct public works assistance. In recent years, the number of households seeking support has increased.

In 2020, 7,781 households applied for the Energy Assistance Program. Last year, that number was him 11,922. So far this year, as of early November, about 4,000 households have applied. Last winter, HACAP provided her $11 million in energy assistance to eastern Iowa.

The Energy Assistance Program is designed to help low-income households cover the cost of heating their homes and pays a portion of the cost of heating the homes of eligible households. In most cases, profits come in the form of credits applied to the utility company’s utility bills.

If you need help, HACAP website At hacap.org/energyconservation. There is also a paper application form.

“The pandemic is really a time marker for so many things, and all our services are in high demand on all fronts,” said Chris Ackman, Communications and Volunteers Manager at the organization. , we have an inflation problem.The moral of the story is that it didn’t get any easier for low-income families.It only got harder, or at best remained difficult.”

Energy assistance is also available at the state and federal levels through the Iowa Department of Human Rights. Energy Assistance Administration head Bill Marquez said his department expects the need to increase this winter.

“We are expecting another harsh winter,” Marquez said. “It’s going to be expensive.”

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is a federally funded program that provides one-time payments for heating facilities and is distributed at the state level. Applying for the program grants the applicant moratorium protection, which prevents utility disconnection during the winter months.

Marquess said the need so far this year is similar to last year, when about 80,000 Iowa families were helped.

“I think inflation is a big factor in this. Households need to be more careful about where they put their limited income. They choose between buying food and buying medicine. We have to and we don’t have enough,” Marquez said. “We are still seeing the effects of the pandemic and climate change is real.

Regular funding for the sector that supports energy aid is usually about $55 million. But over the past two years, the agency has raised her $78 million in funding from the U.S. Relief Plans Act, which allowed the agency to make additional payments to everyone who received assistance. Also, the critical limit on furnace repairs has been increased.

This year, the agency has about $50 million, plus about $1 million from the bipartisan Infrastructure Act and about $9 million from the Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act.

All Applications and Entitlements is through community action agencies that can be found on the Iowa Department of Human Rights website. humanrights.iowa.gov.

“We try to make everything as easy as possible,” says Marquess. “Payments will also be made to public utilities through community action agencies.”

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