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Assistance available for utility customers in need, even after Iowa heating moratorium ends
‘The last thing we as a utility want to do is to disconnect anyone’
Since an annual moratorium against shutting off home heating during Iowa winters ended April 1, customers now may be vulnerable to utility service disconnections. But there are still options for those in need of assistance.
Iowa’s moratorium law protects customers who qualify for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP, or the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, from natural gas or electric service shut-offs from Nov. 1 to April 1.
Iowa utilities must provide written notice to customers at least 12 days before disconnection, and customers who have defaulted on a payment agreement may be disconnected with a 24-hour notice. Disconnections may have began as soon as last Monday, the Iowa Utility Board said in a news release.
The state’s two largest utilities, Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy, offer continued financial assistance for qualifying customers. Customers can set up payment arrangements, taking existing balances and spreading them out over several months.
Alliant also has its Hometown Care Energy Fund that’s made up of donations from customers, employees and shareholders that is distributed to customers in need. Similarly, MidAmerican has its I CARE program, which donors can access at midamericanenergy.com/payment-assistance.
Alliant customers can sign up for a payment arrangement or make a donation online at alliantenergy.com/eaoptions or call 1-800-255-4268.
“The last thing we as a utility want to do is to disconnect anyone,” said Veronica Stober, an Alliant Energy assistance manager. “Really, the thing that I want to make sure everyone knows is even though the moratorium is over, you can still apply for energy assistance.”
Federal and local assistance
LIHEAP helps low-income utility customers pay their heating costs through a one-time payment made to the utility or heating fuel vendor. To qualify, residents in Iowa must earn less than 200 percent of the 2022 federal poverty guidelines. That would be $27,180 for a household of one, for example.
Iowans can apply for these funds through April 30. And those who already received LIHEAP payments can apply for crisis funding, which doesn’t have the April 30 deadline.
“Last year, the LIHEAP program distributed more than $71 million to Iowa residents, so the funding’s out there,” Stober said. “We really want to see anybody who's eligible take advantage of that and not miss out on it.”
Local community action agencies may be able to provide additional support. The Iowa Department of Human Rights offers a list of such agencies in each of Iowa’s 99 counties at humanrights.iowa.gov/dcaa/where-apply.
Linn County and Johnson County agencies include the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program and Four Oaks Family and Children’s Services.
Residents can also refer to 211 Iowa to find local resources for utility assistance.
Brittney J. Miller is the Energy & Environment Reporter for The Gazette and a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.
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