PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — There’s a bit of hope for the many Rhode Islanders who are struggling to pay their bills as winter has officially arrived.

Gov. Dan McKee announced the state has received an additional $21.9 million in federal funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which is available to those who need help paying their heating bills.

This comes in addition to the $30 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Starting early next year, the state will also help Rhode Islanders pay the cost of water and wastewater bills through the federally funded Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP).

“Rhode Islanders should not have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping their utilities on,” McKee said. “These federal programs are a lifeline to help people experiencing hardships prevent shut-offs and stay up-to-date on utility bills.”

On average, LIHEAP helps 30,000 households in Rhode Island every season.

LIHEAP grants to Rhode Island households may range from $555 to $1,201 in initial grants. There are two components to the program:

  • Heating Assistance: A grant to assist a household in meeting heating costs. The grant may be paid to either a heating fuel vendor or utility company, or in a few cases, directly to the applicant.
  • Crisis Assistance: A grant to help resolve a home heating crisis caused by a heat shut-off because of failure to pay a regulated energy bill, the inability to pay for deliverable fuel, or the failure of a heating system that is not repairable.

LIHWAP grants are issued as a one-time payment no greater than $500 for an eligible applicant’s water and/or wastewater bill.

“I urge eligible Rhode Islanders to apply for these grants and take advantage of energy assistance this year,” McKee said.

To be eligible to receive LIHEAP help, households must meet 60% of Rhode Island’s median income level. An example from the state says a household of four could earn $64,702 and qualify.

Households with an annual income at or below 60% of the state median income level can qualify for LIHWAP.

Applicants don’t have to be on public assistance, don’t need to have an unpaid heating bill, and can either rent or own their home.

According to the state’s website, you can’t yet apply for assistance with your water bill. New LIHEAP applicants are asked to apply in person through your local community program agency.