JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Winter is right around the corner, and so are those expensive bills to heat and power your home.
The average American household could spend up to $177 more to stay warm this winter, according to the National Energy Assistant Directors Association.
In response, U.S. Jack Reed says he pushed to include $1 billion in emergency funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) on the latest spending bill. LIHEAP was created to help low-income families and the elderly pay for their fuel and utility bills.
Congress is expected to begin voting on the package Tuesday. If passed, $7 million would come to Rhode Islanders to help heat their homes.
This comes after Rhode island Energy approved an electricity rate hike that will go into effect on Oct. 1. Customers are expected to pay an average of $52 more each month for electricity.
Rhode Island Energy has also proposed a roughly 15% increase for gas bills, which would begin on Nov. 1. That proposal has not yet been voted on by the R.I. Public Utilities Commission.
Rhode Island Energy said the temporary rate hikes are necessary to offset the increased costs to provide power.
Reed joined the Tri-Action Community Action Program on Tuesday to talk about his proposal for more emergency funding for LIHEAP. According to president and CEO Joe DeSantis, the program gave out more than $7 million in assistance for fuel and utility bills in fiscal year 2022.
“LIHEAP is one of the most critical programs we have to provide heating assistance to seniors and low-income families,” Reed said. “With the increase in heating costs, we’re going to need more resources to provide the ability for these families and seniors to make it through the winter.”
The state received $56 million of the $8 billion in nationwide funding for LIHEAP last year. Nearly 26,000 Rhode Island households benefitted from LIHEAP during that year, according to Reed, with the average annual benefit covering about $570 in winter home heating costs for residents.
Reed said he does not expect the proposed funding to run out due to high demand.
“What I think is going to happen is it is going to take some time, just having passed the Inflation Reduction Act,” he explained. “We have significant incentives for home improvements that will shift alternate energies and I think you will see that move right away.”