Federal aid for low-income Arizonans will save lives

This summer, Maricopa County saw the most heat-related deaths on record, nearing 500 fatalities.  In one particularly grueling week, 150 heat-related deaths were recorded.  As we confront the reality of Arizona’s temperatures reaching unprecedented highs year after year, the necessity for proactive measures becomes increasingly evident. 

In response, the White House, recognizing the urgent need for energy assistance in the wake of these extreme conditions, announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration for Children and Families, has released nearly $3.7 billion in new Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in national funding.  



Furthermore, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego announced nine Arizona tribes were awarded a total of nearly $2.5 million in funding for the LIHEAP. In addition, the State of Arizona has been awarded almost $31 million. 

This funding will help Arizona families pay their home heating costs this winter, and cooling bills next summer. LIHEAP can also be used to weatherize homes to make them more energy efficient, and during disasters and extreme weather to mitigate energy emergencies.

LIHEAP funding, which is dispersed to states, tribes, and territories, is utilized for heating and cooling assistance, as well as for repair and replacement of home energy equipment and minor energy-related home repairs. An easy-to-use LIHEAP eligibility tool has been launched with the release of funding to ensure households can quickly determine whether or not they qualify for assistance through this program. The user-friendly tool asks simple questions such as household size, monthly income, and state of residence. Households that qualify for the program can receive $1,200 per year for standard energy costs plus $1,000 for those experiencing an energy crisis.

Heat-related deaths were not solely made up by the unhoused population, as 45% of the deaths were reported in houses that had non-functioning air conditioning and even no air conditioning at all.  Additionally, 60% of those who died this summer from the heat were over the age of 50.  People between the ages of 50 and 64 accounted for nearly 30% of the total deaths in Maricopa County.  

This additional LIHEAP funding can directly aid those in similar situations in preparing their homes for increased energy costs to heat their homes this winter and prepare for similar extreme heat expected next summer.  Arizonans looking to lower their energy costs can find more information about LIHEAP via the Department of Economic Security website: https://des.az.gov/liheap

In addition to LIHEAP, qualifying individuals and families can seek assistance through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). These repairs and adjustments directly lower home energy bills, making the life-saving use of an air conditioner during summer months more affordable. To learn more about WAP, visit the Arizona Department of Housing website: https://housing.az.gov/general-public/weatherization-assistance-program.

After a record-breaking season in which Phoenix residents faced 31 consecutive days of temperatures reaching 110 degrees or higher, it is now more important than ever that Arizonans can access more affordable and cost-effective energy assistance as experts state that the summers will only get hotter. Spreading the word about programs like LIHEAP and the Weatherization Assistance Program is vital. By informing others in our communities, especially those who might not be aware, we can ensure that more families and individuals get the help they need.

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