TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema has joined in signing a letter directed to senate leaders, asking them to provide more funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
The program assists Arizona families facing financial strain with energy costs; and if approved, funds would be seen in the next COVID-19 relief package.
“State energy officials have reported that they are ready to move additional LIHEAP funds quickly and have identified a need for an additional $10 billion to serve 11 million families, including newly-eligible households,” read the letter to the Senate. “Across the nation, utilities are reporting significant increases in the number of families falling behind on their utility bills.”
According to the letter, the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association estimates that 15 to 20 percent of residential customers are at least 60 days behind on their electric and natural gas bills.
The letter further notes that the $900 million currently included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act for LIHEAP are fully obligated, and additional funding is necessary to help the newly unemployed with energy costs.
Currently, Arizona is only able to reach four percent of at-risk households.
The senator says with more people losing access to unemployment insurance benefits after March, facing large utility and rent bills after deferring payments previously, children still learning from home, and workers not back in the office yet— households cannot afford to be without power.