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HRDC offers programs to defray energy costs

With the cost of living and energy prices rising in Southwest Montana, the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) offers several programs designed to help defray energy costs for area residents.

The HRDC currently offers the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides financial assistance to households to help pay winter home heating bills with eligibility based on gross income and resources. The Energy Share of Montana supports those who are without or soon to be without power due to receiving a disconnect notice from their utility provider.

As part of its programs, the HRDC offers no-cost home weather services to LIHEAP-eligible customers to make their homes more energy efficient while reducing the financial burden of energy costs. According to a release from the HRDC, common weatherization services provided include air sealing, attic sealing/insulation, floor skirt/crawl space insulation, wall insulation, weather-stripping, window and door repair/replacement, minor energy-related repairs, and heating system testing and repair.

The HRDC also provides income-eligible households with furnace repairs or replacements.

According to HRDC Communications Penny Johnson, so far in 2024, they have helped 53 Three Forks area households with heat assistance and have also helped weatherize four homes in the area.

"Our programs help qualified individuals and families stretch their household budgets, and with the recent significant increase in energy rates, our programs are more critical than ever," Johnson said.

For HRDC's Energy Programs Director Sonja Wheeler, it is very rewarding to see how they can help community members make ends meet and relieve some of the burden of the rising cost of living.

"Receiving Energy Assistance and Home Weatherization Services allows those Households to budget the saved dollars for rent or other necessities while keeping their homes warm," Wheeler said.

The HRDC's first LIHEAP heating season dates back to 1980-81. Wheeler said they are currently helping over 1,100 households in Gallatin, Park, and Meagher Counites with energy assistance and weatherizing around 50 homes a year.

"The mild temperatures we are having this winter make the rate hikes less visible on monthly energy bills than what we would see during a more typical Montana winter. However, this season, we have seen an increase in energy assistance applications and have often heard our customers have had to make the difficult decision between paying their rent or paying their utilities," Wheeler said.

Customers wanting to apply can do so directly online at https://apply.mt.gov/ or on the HRDC website at https://thehrdc.org/energy-assistance/heat-bill-assistance/. Wheeler said those using the HRDC website must fill out and sign the linked form and submit it along with the listed documentation to [email protected].

"Please reach out to us to apply for the LIHEAP program as soon as possible, and to ensure there is not a pause in utility service, please don't wait for a subsequent utility disconnect notice to apply for Energy Share support. Finally, many folks aren't aware that they can apply retroactively through April 30, 2024, to receive financial support for their energy bills dating back to the beginning of the winter season," Wheeler said.

 
 
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