More aid available for winter heating and utility bills | News, Sports, Jobs

By Josh Boak

Associated press

The Biden administration is taking action to help distribute billions of dollars in aid for winter heating and utility bills, an unprecedented amount that comes largely from its 1 coronavirus relief program. , $ 9 trillion.

The program provided an additional $ 4.5 billion to the government’s low-income home energy assistance program, which typically has funding of $ 3-4 billion per year. Aid to tenants can also cover utility costs, while money provided to state, local and tribal governments can help families facing high heating bills and not eligible for other programs.

“This is another example where the US bailout included extra precautions to make sure we were ready,” said Gene Sperling, who oversees coronavirus relief for the White House. “These new programs and funding were designed to ensure that if the weather was colder or prices were higher, we would have the highest resources ever to help as many families at risk as possible.”

The White House sent out invitations to an appeal Thursday afternoon with representatives from the boards of governors to discuss ways to distribute funds and coordinate programs. Speakers will include Sperling, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and the Governors of Connecticut, Maine, Michigan and Minnesota.

The aid helps create a cushion that limits the shock of rising energy costs as winter approaches. Republican lawmakers have said the back-up plan, which became law in March, caused higher levels of inflation, with prices in October 6.2% higher than a year ago. The GOP’s argument is that Biden’s relief program sent too much money into the economy, driving up prices and hurting middle-class and low-income families.

“Democrats’ inflation works like an ultra-punitive tax on American families who can least afford it,” Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Wednesday.

But in this case, the aid program spending is already helping to isolate millions of households from higher utility bills and reduce pressures on household budgets. Urban Institute estimates based on a Census Bureau survey indicate that one-third of families used the expanded child tax credit monthly payments to pay their utility bills between July and October 2021.

Electricity and natural gas prices are about 11% higher than a year ago, according to the Labor Ministry’s consumer price index. Heating oil prices have more than doubled in the past year, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The administration is also calling on utilities and energy companies to use available government resources to protect their most vulnerable customers. DTE Energy, Eversource, National Grid, NorthWestern Energy, Green Mountain Power, Portland General Electric, Vermont Gas and the delivered fuels trade association NEFI have agreed to identify and notify eligible recipients and ensure no blackouts for customers looking for help.

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