HELENA – Together with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), Governor Greg Gianforte announced that $27 million in federal funding is available to help Montanans with heating bills this winter and to weatherize more homes.
“With inflation at a high not seen in a generation and home heating prices continuing to increase, Montanans shouldn’t have to choose between heating their home and putting food on the table,” Governor Gianforte said. “Winter months can be challenging, and these programs are meant to help eligible Montanans keep their homes warm.”
In October, the federal government projected home heating bills will skyrocket by as much as 54 percent compared to last winter. In the last year, inflation has driven up the price of fuel oil by 59 percent, propane and firewood by 35 percent, and utility gas by 28 percent.
Additional funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) and Weatherization programs are available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Based on the recommendations from Montana’s ARPA Health Advisory Commission, Governor Gianforte devoted $27 million for the new program on June 28, 2021.
Eligible Montanans can find LIHEAP application information at liheap.mt.gov.
About $14 million in funding will be used to increase heat assistance payments for the lowest income households with the highest energy burden, as well as special populations such as the elderly, disabled, or households with young children.
LIHEAP is a federally-funded program that already provides $21 million annually to Montana to reduce the home energy burden for low-income households. DPHHS works to ensure that households with the lowest income and highest energy burden receive the greatest level of assistance. Payments are made directly to energy providers.
The ARPA funds temporarily supplement the existing LIHEAP program and provide an increase in benefits to households that could benefit from these funds the most.
A portion of the funds will pay for a new, temporary benefit to pay for utility arrearages and emergency payments for reconnection fees or to stop service disconnects. The increase in payments will only apply for the 2021-22 LIHEAP season.
On average, about 18,500 Montanan households are enrolled in LIHEAP statewide, and 460 homes are weatherized each year.
The $6 million allocation to the Weatherization Program will reduce energy costs for additional households by increasing energy efficiency in homes. DPHHS officials say these investments have long-term impacts, and the estimated annual savings to each home receiving weatherization services is about $409.
For more information about this funding opportunity and all ARPA funding allocated to DPHHS go to arpa.mt.gov.