More Nebraskans in need will be eligible for energy assistance thanks to passage of a bill to provide expanded access to federal funds.
LB 306, introduced by Sen. Tom Brandt (District 32), raises the income limit for receiving assistance to 150% of the federal poverty level, up from 130%. Funding for the assistance comes from Nebraska’s federal aid. The new law also increases the amount of money going to the state’s weatherization program.
Brandt said the bill makes the program more efficient. Currently, he said, LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) is funded through a federal block grant, and funds left over at the end of the year must be returned to the federal government. To avoid this, the Department of Health and Human Services allocates supplemental payments to homeowners, he said.
“LB 306 will make the program more efficient by eliminating the supplemental payments away from those customers who do not need them and reallocating the funds to more people who actually need assistance,” Brandt said.
The bill had an interesting path to enactment. It was passed by the legislature, vetoed by the Governor, and overriden on a 32-15 vote.
“It’s a good change for the state and those who are in need,” said Britton Gabel, senior product specialist at OPPD. “Estimations show it could increase access to more than 8,000 households.”
Gabel said the funding is now in place. He added that it will positively impact the lives of those families struggling to make ends meet.
Anyone wishing to apply for assistance from LIHEAP can do so by phone, or through electronic or paper application. They can apply by filling out an application via the ACCESSNebraska website, or by calling 800-383-4278.
Heating assistance season runs from Oct. 1 to March 31. Cooling assistance runs from June 1 to Aug. 31.
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