More South Dakotans eligible for energy assistance this winter

More South Dakotans are now eligible for financial help to heat their homes this winter.

Due to increased federal allocations for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program over the last two years, the state Department of Social Services has expanded eligibility guidelines to allow households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level to get heating assistance.

"Now we can help more families that otherwise may not be able to heat their homes," said Deb Bowman, Secretary of the Department of Social Services. "This will be a huge relief for South Dakotans who are struggling with finances."

The program assists low-income families with their heating bills by paying grant money directly to energy providers or utility companies. South Dakota currently disburses LIEAP funds based on applicants' incomes, fuel types and regions. Last year the program served more than 18,800 South Dakota households.

While Congress has not yet announced the total allocation for the federal Low-Income Household Energy Assistance Program this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an initial $2.6 billion earlier this month to keep the federal program running. Of that, $17.2 million has been appropriated to South Dakota LIEAP. An additional $3.3 million has been appropriated to South Dakota tribal programs.

For more information on LIEAP, including eligibility requirements, visit www.dss.sd.gov/energyassistance.

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