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Ohio to Receive $5.4 Million in Energy Assistance Funds to Help Low-Income Families with Winter Heating Costs

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The state of Ohio will receive $5.435 million in emergency contingency funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help families in need pay their heating and energy bills this winter through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and George V. Voinovich (R-OH) have strong records of supporting LIHEAP funding, which provides vital help to households struggling with their heating bills.

"Today, U.S. natural gas prices are the highest in the world, with prices more than doubling in the past few months alone. This winter, our energy situation will only get worse. We must commit to long-term efforts that will create true energy independence for our nation and I am committed to working with my colleagues toward this goal. However, in the short term, too many Ohio families are struggling right now to pay their energy bills. These vital funds will help ensure immediate relief for those less fortunate and the elderly on fixed incomes, who are often forced to choose between paying their utility bills and putting food on their tables," said Voinovich.

"This emergency funding will help Ohio's low income families, senior citizens, and residents with disabilities through the cold winter months. LIHEAP is a critical safety net for some members of the community, and we must do all we can to help them afford their rising energy costs," said Senator DeWine. "This funding is crucial to improving the quality of life of those in need. LIHEAP has proven itself in the past years and we ask the Department of Health and Human Services to continue this effort."

Since 1999, the U.S. Senate has increased LIHEAP funding overall by approximately 72 percent. Senators DeWine and Voinovich insisted on a further increase of funds for LIHEAP in this year's appropriations process.

The $5.435 million in funding for Ohio is part of $100 million in total energy assistance emergency funds being given to states, tribes and territories this winter. In addition, HHS will now make available up to 100 percent of states' remaining block grant funds—which total $633 million—for a combined total of $733 million in available resources. These funds will also be administered by LIHEAP. There is an additional $101 million that remains available for crises through the emergency contingency fund. The Energy Information Agency (EIA) has predicted that natural gas heating costs in the Midwest will rise by 61 percent this winter, where 75 percent of homes are heated with natural gas. It could be higher if the winter is colder than predicted.

Since 1974, the federal government, in conjunction with the states, has been providing assistance to low-income households to help with either their heating or cooling costs through LIHEAP. In Ohio, the program is currently assisting more than 300,000 households. Ohioans with yearly incomes less than 175 percent of the federal poverty level (up to $16,747.50 for a single person, or $22,452.50 for a married couple) should contact the Ohio Department of Development toll-free at 1-800-848-1300.

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