Heating assistance cut from state budget

One casualty of this year’s state budget cuts is an aid program that assists low-income households with their winter heating bills.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Assistance announced Tuesday that its Alaska Heating Assistance Program (AKHAP) will not be funded in the state budget that took effect July 1.

DHSS Public Information Officer Sarana Schell wrote in an email that the program gives households that qualify each year a one-time payment averaging approximately $560 to cover a portion of their heating bills. Between September 2015 and June 2016, around 2,100 families received this funding, Schell wrote.

Among Alaska’s 24 census areas, the Mat-Su area, Anchoragethe and the Kenai Peninsula were the program’s largest users during winter 2015-2016.

A larger federal program continues to offer heating aid money. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funded Alaskan households last winter, however, the LIHEAP money — contriubuted by both the state and federal governments — will also be reduced this winter. The federal government will continue funding its portion of LIHEAP, but the state’s 30 percent LIHEAP contribution will be absent.

The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation also offers an assistance program that prepares homes for colder temperatures, which Schell wrote “may be helpful in reducing heating energy needs.”

• Ben Boettger is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He can be reached at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.• Ben Boettger is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He can be reached at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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