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Mon, July 04

Column | LIHEAP lowers energy bills

For over 40 years the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been helping low-income families and individuals pay their electric bills. The program recently received a needed boost from the White House, a boost beneficial to many Arizonans.

The additional availability of $385 million in LIHEAP funding will further help Arizonans and citizens across the country pay for air conditioning and heating and reduce the overall cost of energy in their homes, an effort Arizona’s U.S. Senators have supported for years. In fact, Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake advocated for warm weather states to receive equal funding to cold weather states. And Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly echoed that sentiment as signatories in a letter to Congress.

LIHEAP is especially important as financial challenges for many Arizonans continue, due in part to the pandemic. Federal programs, along with other state and local utility assistance programs such as those distributed by local Community Action Programs (CAP), seek to reduce the cost of household bills, making the cost of necessary products and services more affordable.

Through the local CAP offices, people who are eligible for LIHEAP can apply to receive funds to pay current and outstanding energy bills. Available funding can go toward energy costs accrued during the utility disconnect moratorium, utility services deposits, or funding to implement energy efficiency measures to further reduce energy bills. CAP offices are located in each county and staff can answer questions and provide application assistance.

CAP agencies and utility staff can also let consumers know about financial assistance and rate plans that might be applicable for their household, including assisting with enrollment in utility discount programs. Although APS, TEP and UNS Electric will not be disconnecting customers from June 1 to Oct. 15, due to an Arizona Corporation Commission rule, electric bills will eventually still need to be paid. Keeping up with payments, setting up a payment plan, paying what you can, or utilizing financial assistance during this time frame can help avoid sticker shock when the moratorium ends.

While financial assistance can be helpful for many households in the short-term, reducing energy use and taking advantage of utility energy efficiency programs can provide monthly bill savings for all consumers. Powering down and unplugging electronics such as TVs and video game consoles, microwaves, and phone and computer chargers, or plugging them into smart charging strips can prevent them from drawing energy when not in use. Using insulation or properly sealing your home through caulking and weatherizing can also reduce energy waste, therefore reducing energy costs.

Wildfire and the Arizona PIRG Education Fund appreciate federal and utility programs designed to help households save energy and pay their bills. For utility assistance in Arizona, we encourage you to go to wildfireaz.org/community-action-agencies/ or call 602-604-0640.

(Cynthia Zwick, czwick@wildfireaz.org, is the executive director of Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona. Diane E. Brown, dbrown@arizonapirg.org, is the executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.)

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