the White House hosted a meeting of governors and federal and state officials on the frontlines of helping families address home heating costs this winter. The discussion focused on deploying unprecedented resources provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARP), including $4.5 billion in funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) as well as Emergency Rental Assistance that can be used for utility bills.
Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Chavez Rodriguez emphasized the importance of partnerships between federal, state, territorial and tribal leaders to deliver critical benefits to Americans. White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling provided an overview of the historic ARP resources available to help families this winter.
Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, Treasury Department Chief Recovery Officer Jacob Leibenluft, and Dr. Lanikque Howard, Director of HHS’s Office of Community Services, explained the Administration’s comprehensive strategy to address energy costs and new tools to help states and localities swiftly deliver utility assistance to hard pressed families.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Governor Janet Mills of Maine, Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut and Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota highlighted innovative ways their states are coordinating and expediting benefits from the American Rescue Plan in order to reach vulnerable families quickly.
As part of this event, the White House challenged utility companies across the country to step up and do their part as well. In response, seven major utilities companies as well as a trade association representing distributors of liquid fuels like propane and heating oil have already agreed to a specific set of commitments including avoiding shutting off heat this winter to eligible customers who have applied for benefits like LIHEAP and doing more to get relief to households that need it.
Participating Governors and Industry Stakeholders issued the following statements:
Governor Whitmer of Michigan:
“In Michigan, we know how critical it is to have access to affordable heating options, especially with winter just a few weeks around the corner and temperatures already starting to drop below freezing,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we have an historic influx of resources to help families keep the heat on this winter. I am grateful to our federal partners for working to ensure that every family that needs assistance with heating bills this winter can get the help they need to stay warm and safe.”
Governor Mills of Maine:
“Maine is putting to good use the American Rescue Plan’s unprecedented resources to keep Maine people warm this winter,” said Governor Janet Mills. “We are leading new initiatives to make accessing LIHEAP easier than ever, forging partnerships with fuel providers to get fuel in tanks early and often, and making once-in-a-generation investments to cut energy costs for Maine families, reduce carbon emissions, and strengthen our clean energy workforce. I am grateful for the efforts of the Biden-Harris Administration that made this progress possible – and I look forward to our continued partnership on behalf of the people of Maine.”
Governor Lamont of Connecticut:
“It can’t be overstated what a lifeline the American Rescue Plan Act has been to millions of people across this country. The pandemic knocked us down and ARPA is helping us get back on our feet. In CT, we’re using emergency rental assistance funds provided through ARPA to help struggling households with their past-due electric bills. This is a unique and innovative approach to assist households with arrearages dating back to April 2020. Working with the US Department of the Treasury – which has been a great partner in implementing, UniteCT, which is our Emergency Rental Assistance Program – we’ve allowed households in Qualified Census Tracts to self-certify they are income-eligible for the program. And working with our major utilities, we’ve established a data sharing agreement to identify renter customers with arrearages, who were not yet receiving any kind of rental or utility assistance. We are contacting them by email and robocall and connecting them with our assistance programs. So far, we’ve helped thousands of eligible individuals who otherwise would be at risk of utility shutoffs during the cold winter months to come.”
Governor Walz of Minnesota:
“Every Minnesotan deserves a warm and safe home, and as we prepare for our harsh winter months, I am grateful for the unprecedented level of partnership from the federal government to help Minnesotans afford their heating bills,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. “This year, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is delivering direct financial support to help Minnesotans save money in the face of rising heating fuel prices. I encourage all Minnesotans to find out if they’re eligible for Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program. Help is available.”
DTE Energy President and CEO Jerry Norcia:
“DTE Energy is working closely with the State of Michigan to deliver help to our customers in need,” said Jerry Norcia, DTE Energy president and CEO. “We partnered with the state in extraordinary ways during an extraordinary time to directly apply financial aid to the accounts of customers we knew qualified for it. This lifeline has been essential in keeping the light and heat on for our most vulnerable customers. We support the administration’s call to action and will continue our work in meeting this commitment.”
Eversource President and CEO Joe Nolan:
“We’ve worked collaboratively with the State of Connecticut to find creative ways to help as many renters as possible during the pandemic — leveraging our resources and using the collective data we have to prequalify and contact customers. Governor Lamont’s leadership and the Department of Housing’s support enabled Connecticut to be a model to follow,” said Eversource President and CEO Joe Nolan. “We have an important role to play and we’re proud to share this model with others to give the most relief to vulnerable customers as fast as possible as we head into this winter heating season.”
National Grid President Badar Khan:
“National Grid recognizes that all of our customers will be impacted this winter due to higher energy supply costs, and that some of our customers will be more adversely impacted than others. Helping these families in the communities we serve goes to the core of our values, and we wholeheartedly support the Administration’s call to action. We also offer a number of programs to assist our customers in paying their bills and have consumer advocates on staff to provide additional support to ensure that our most vulnerable customers have affordable heat this winter.”
NEFI President and CEO Sean Cota:
“On behalf of the nation’s home heating fuel distributors, NEFI commends the President for acknowledging the hardships they see daily. Our Main Street family businesses care deeply about their customers and local communities and remain committed to ensure that no one is ‘left out in the cold.’ We look forward to working with the administration, state and local agencies, and other stakeholders to ensure all resources are brought to bear to support American families this winter, particularly those experiencing the greatest need.”
Vermont Gas President and CEO Neale F. Lunderville
“As Vermont’s largest thermal energy provider, we strongly support this initiative and commend federal and state leaders for their swift action ahead of the heating season. We are fully committed to the well-being of the communities we serve and will prioritize our resources to help Vermonters stay safe, warm, and secure this winter.”