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$11.8 million grant to help Nevadans pay energy bills

The state has received an $11.8 million federal grant to help Nevadans who are struggling to pay their energy bills.

The money, which is part of the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, will help Nevada meet its increasing need for such help, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Health and Human Services said Monday.

The grant “will ensure we are able to serve all eligible applicants this program year and increase the amount of assistance available for each household,” said Mike Willden, director of the department.

To be eligible for the state’s energy assistance program, a family’s income must fall below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, that would be $2,650 per month, or $31,800 per year.

With the grant, the average annual benefit for low-income Nevada households is expected to increase from $732 to $1,024. The money is paid in a single annual installment directly to the applicant’s utility company, 30 to 45 days after the applicant is approved for help, according to the department.

Energy assistance benefits totaling $17.8 million provided help for 20,893 Nevada households in fiscal year 2009, which ended June 30. The state estimates it will provide $24 million to $26 million in total in energy assistance help this fiscal year for more than 25,000 households.

Households that were already approved for benefits this fiscal year may be eligible for supplemental help. The state will be reviewing previously approved applications and will issue supplements for those eligible households.

For more information about Nevada’s energy assistance program visit http://dwss.nv.gov and click on “Energy Assistance Program” or call 486-1404.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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