Utility bill program could lose funds in government shut down

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The US government could shut down in less than two weeks. If it does, it would affect many services and programs. One program that could lose funds is the Emergency Assistance Program that pays heating bills for low income families.

About 10,000 families in Michiana benefit from the EAP program between November and May.

"We hear it is going to be a cold winter and that concerns me," said Dawn Chapla, Director of Labor & Financial Stability, United Way St Joseph County.

Winter is coming and low-income families may not be able to turn on their heaters.

"We work very closely here at this United Way with people that do the EAP and we know that this area of the community have a huge need for heat assistance," said Chapla.

If the government shuts down, not as many families will be helped by the Emergency Assistance Program (EAP).

"We make a one-time payment to the electric company and to the heating utility during the heating season which goes from November through May. We pay that directly to the utilities," said Ingrid Simmons, Energy Assistance Program Director.

The possible government shut down may impact EAP programs in Michiana. 

"We start seeing households that either have their services shut off or they have a disconnect notice," said Simmons.

The EAP could lose up to $2.5 billion. That money could help 3 million people.

"There are a lot of families that are doing the best they can and working hard but still need these assistance programs to be successful and self-sufficient," said Chapla.

The Senate passed a bill to keep funding the federal government, but it still has to be voted on in the House. 

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) says they have rollover funds from the past year that they plan to use this winter.


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