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Cowlitz PUD: Federal program can ease electric bill woes, COVID hardship

Cowlitz PUD: Federal program can ease electric bill woes, COVID hardship

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the application process and include an interview with Lower Columbia CAP Director Ilona Kirby. 

A federally funded program that helps families pay utility bills can assist people hit financially by the coronavirus, according to the Cowlitz PUD.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is overseen locally by Lower Columbia CAP, can provide up to $1,000 to eligible households to help pay electric bills. (The total amount of aid is determined by income and number of household members, and "very few" people qualify for the full amount, said CAP Director Ilona Kirby.)

People can schedule an appointment to apply online at https://www.liheapcalendar.com/LCCAP.

“We are expecting when the moratorium (preventing utility disconnections) is lifted, we will see a real increase in demand. Right now people’s power is remaining on whether they’ve paid it or not. ... I'm hopeful that people will apply now and go through the process because it will help avoid a crisis situation when the moratorium is lifted," Kirby said.

The program recently received supplemental funding through the coronavirus stimulus package to help "prevent, prepare for, or respond to home energy needs" relating to the pandemic, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

The Cowlitz PUD pointed to the program Thursday as a tool for customers who may be facing "economic hardships" due to COVID-19. 

Funding to the program is limited, though, so customers should apply online as soon as possible, the PUD said. 

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