Biden administration to use Covid relief funds to try to offset rising home heating costs
By Kate Sullivan, CNN
(CNN) -- The Biden administration on Thursday announced steps it's taking to deploy funds from the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief law passed earlier this year to help offset rising home heating costs for Americans this winter.
The White House on Thursday also called on utility companies that receive public funding to prevent utility shut-offs and help expedite the delivery of federal aid.
The effort comes weeks after the federal government forecast that Americans across the country would be paying more to heat their homes this year. The sharp rise in prices reflects a spike in energy costs, in particular oil and natural gas.
The White House is holding a virtual call on Thursday afternoon to discuss deploying the funds to mitigate the costs that will be attended by top Biden administration officials and governors from Maine, Michigan, Connecticut and Minnesota. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, White House American Rescue Plan coordinator and senior adviser to the President Gene Sperling and Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Rodriguez will be on the call.
The White House released a fact sheet Thursday morning highlighting the specific funds in the American Rescue Plan that will help offset the costs. The law provides $4.5 billion to expand the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and an additional $21.5 billion for Emergency Rental Assistance programs that help with late utility bills and help struggling renters avoid shut-offs.
It also provides $350 billion to the State & Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, which the administration says can be used to assist with energy costs.
The administration on Thursday called on states, localities and tribes to prepare early to distribute the funds and use emergency rental assistance to aid renters with their utility costs.
The White House also called on utility and energy providers to commit to "proactively use their resources" to help struggling families, which it said includes identifying eligible recipients, directly screen and notify potentially eligible recipients, expediting assistance to vulnerable households and committing to restore service or delay shut-offs to customers applying for financial hardship assistance.
Compared with last winter, households will spend 54% more for propane, 43% more for home heating oil, 30% more for natural gas and 6% more for electric heating, the US Energy Information Administration said in a new report last month.
US oil prices recently closed above $80 a barrel for the first time since 2014. Natural gas, the most common fuel used to heat homes, has surged to prices unseen since 2008.
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