Harkins: New program can help residents in danger of losing utilities

ERIE, May 15 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, is advising residents about a new program to help households struggling with utility bills because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harkins said the newly announced Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Recovery Crisis Program will provide a crisis benefit and a supplemental payment for households that previously received a crisis payment made directly to utility companies or fuel providers to help offset utility costs.

“LIHEAP has been key to helping low-income households keep the power on,” Harkins said. “But when the pandemic struck, it created a whole new series of challenges. This new program will provide essential help during these emergency times, when keeping the power on and stay connected are more important than ever. I’m urging all residents to learn about the new program and how it may be able to help.”

Harkins said that LIHEAP Recovery Crisis benefits may be available if a household:

  • Has had their main or secondary energy source completely shut off.
  • Is notified that their utility service will be shut off in the next 60 days.
  • Has broken energy equipment or leaking lines that must be fixed or replaced.
  • Is in danger of being without fuel in 15 days or less.
  • Owes funds to a utility provider that would constitute a service termination if not for the Public Utility Commission’s moratorium on terminations.

The new program will open May 18 and run through August 31, or until all budgeted funds are expended. The maximum benefit will be $800 for this period, and eligibility guidelines will be the same as those used during the 2019-20 LIHEAP season.

Under a file-transfer agreement, utility providers will be able to submit a LIHEAP Recovery Crisis application on behalf of a consenting household provided the household has already received LIHEAP in cash to the utility during the regular season.

In addition, the Department of Human Services will automatically issue a $100 supplemental payment to about 100,000 households that received LIHEAP crisis funds during the 2019-20 season. Any household that has not reached the maximum benefit in the 2019-20 season can apply for additional assistance up to the $800 limit.

More information on the new program – which is funded by a combination of federal CARES Act dollars and money remaining from the 2019-20 LIHEAP season – is available here.