Governor McKee Announces $21 Million in Federal Funding to Help Rhode Islanders Pay the Cost of Utility Bills

Published on Tuesday, December 21, 2021

PROVIDENCE, RI – In an effort to help Rhode Islanders pay their utility bills, Governor Dan McKee today announced $21,871,003 for fiscal year 2022 for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help eligible low-income Rhode Islanders pay their heating bills. The State also received $30,818,515 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for LIHEAP, bringing the state’s total LIHEAP funding to $52.6 million for fiscal year 2022. Governor McKee also announced the addition of the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), a federal program beginning in early 2022 that will help Rhode Islanders pay the cost of water and wastewater bills.

“Rhode Islanders should not have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping their utilities on,” said Governor McKee. “These federal programs are a lifeline to help people experiencing hardships prevent shut-offs and stay up-to-date on utility bills. On average, LIHEAP helps 30,000 households in Rhode Island every season. I urge eligible Rhode Islanders to apply for these grants and take advantage of energy assistance this year.”

LIHEAP grants to Rhode Island households may range from $555 to $1,201 in initial grants. There are two components to the program:

  • Heating Assistance: A grant to assist a household in meeting heating costs. The grant may be paid to either a heating fuel vendor or utility company, or in a few cases, directly to the applicant.
  • Crisis Assistance: A grant to help resolve a home heating crisis caused by a heat shut-off because of failure to pay a regulated energy bill, the inability to pay for deliverable fuel, or the failure of a heating system that is not repairable.

LIHWAP grants are issued as a one-time payment no greater than $500 for an eligible applicant’s water and/or wastewater bill.

“We know our neighbors all across the state are still feeling the impact of the pandemic. We need to help everyone recover from the economic hardship that the pandemic has brought. It has been an uneven economic recovery, and we need to continue to focus on equity as we build back better and come out of this unprecedented time,” said Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones. “State government and our community partners stand ready to help any Rhode Islander who can benefit from this funding for heating and water expenses.”

Last season from October 2020 through May 2021, 26,141 households received non-crisis heating assistance grants through LIHEAP. Additionally, there were 1,808 crisis grants for heating and 24,692 grants for cooling issued to households. The RI Department of Human Services (DHS) and local Community Action Program (CAP) agencies hope to help 45,000 total households this season. As of September 2021, 13,727 households have received awards totaling $8.9 million. With the additional funding available, the State expects to be able to assist more families if the need arises.

“This year will be slightly different due to the current economic climate and anticipated need. With the support of our community partners and leadership at the State level, I’m proud to say Rhode Island is prepared to meet the demand,” said DHS Interim Director Celia J. Blue. “Additional funding will help ensure that every Rhode Islander has the resources they need to provide a safe, warm and welcoming home for their families, children, loved ones and guests.”

To be eligible to receive LIHEAP help, households must meet 60 percent of Rhode Island’s median income level. For example, a household of four could earn $64,702 and qualify. Family size, fuel type and minimum delivery requirements are also considered for LIHEAP primary grants. Applicants do not have to be on public assistance or have an unpaid heating bill to be eligible for LIHEAP. Households with an annual income at or below 60 percent of the state median income level can qualify for LIHWAP. Applicants can qualify regardless of whether they own or rent their home.

Funding is administered by DHS and CAP agencies. Applicants should apply through their local CAP agency. The application period for LIHEAP is Oct. 1 through April 30. The application period for LIHWAP is expected to begin in early 2022 and will follow the same application period as LIHEAP going forward.