Low income families and individuals in Rhode Island can get help with addressing the ever-increasing cost of home heating bills from LIHEAP and weatherization. Both of these resources are offered in partnership with your local community action agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the state government of Rhode Island. Cash grants can be disbursed for paying utility bills, and resources are also available to help people save money from free energy efficiency measures.
There are several different components of these programs. For example, LIHEAP is available during the cold winter months, and can pay regular bills or a crisis component is available if someone is faced with disconnection or if they run out of heating oil or fuel.
While your local community action agency will have more information, in general the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program runs from November to March. Grants for paying heating bills are focused on low income families that meet income limits, with priority for the disabled, elderly and families with children. The payments are made directly to your heating or utility company and not to the client.
The Primary Grant is the formal name of the Rhode Island one time payment. Depending on the applicants household size and income, the amount available may be around $300 to $500 per year. To help ensure the effectiveness of the fuel assistance program, all funds from the government are paid directly to the energy supplier or vendor on behalf of the LIHEAP client. The community action agency in your town or county is responsible for distributing the cash assistance to the beneficiaries.
Crisis assistance is available in Rhode Island as well. This is offered to qualified households that experience an energy crisis, meaning that they need emergency help in keeping their heat on. The total number and frequency of any LIHEAP crisis grants available to any single household or family shall be determined by the federal government funds available to the State. Also, if your furnace is not working or needs to be replaced, then the LIHEAP Heating System Replacement Program may be available to help with that issue too.
The Federal Department of Health and Human Services funds the Rhode Island Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program on behalf of the Office of Energy Resources from a so called Block Grant. Its primary objective is to help low-income families and people who are at risk with addressing the increasing cost of home energy bills, and to help people reduce the severity of a crisis. Eligible clients also qualify for a reduced ongoing electric rate as well as a discount on their telephone bill, so there are several other benefits.
Intake and applications for LIHEAP are processed by Community Action agencies, and in recent years around 50,000 households per year receive assistance with paying their heating bills from the program. Applications are usually accepted starting in September or October, and an appointment is usually required. Case workers from the agency will provide information on the application process and what documentation is needed. The non-profits are responsible for authorizing and disbursing payments as well as intake and screening of clients.
The U.S. Department of Energy also provide funds to the State of Rhode Island to pay for the weatherization assistance program. A number of low-income households, many who are enrolled in LIHEAP, can receive free energy conservation improvements to their home, while it will also help ensure the health and safety of clients and help them become self-sufficient.
People who benefit from this program will normally save a substantial amount of money, and many beneficiaries can experience a 30% reduction on their home heating and energy bills. So this means that families in Rhode Island can save $300 to $400 per year on their utilities.
Homes go through an extensive audit. Diagnostic tools are used to detect pressure imbalances and air leaks within the home. Combustion analyzers are used to check furnace and efficiency and safety. Contractors from your community action agency will also test your appliances for carbon monoxide and efficiency. Some of the typical weatherization measures offered in Rhode Island include performing heating and cooling tune-ups, blowing insulation modifications; and repairing and sealing air ducts. Other services include wrapping of pipes, weather stripping around doors, caulk and seal windows as well as the installation of free compact fluorescent lights.
Weatherization helps the low income and seniors by helping them reduce and save money on their energy bills. Priority is for the elderly, people with disabilities, and children in the greater Rhode Island community. So this program in effect frees up their income to pay for other basic needs, such as rent, food, or medications. Maybe best of all, not only is weatherization offered for free, but it is often combined with the LIHEAP program. Call (401) 437-5102 or your local community action agency.
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