White House shares $4.5B effort to help cover winter heating bills

The Biden administration is dispersing an additional $4.5 billion in funding to help cover heating costs for low-income Americans this winter, sharing a state-by-state breakdown on Friday.

The funding is part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief package passed in 2021, the White House said. It more than doubled the typical annual appropriations for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP. 

The additional funding represents the largest appropriation in a single year since the program was established in 1981, the administration said.

"These resources are already allowing states across the country to provide more home energy relief to low-income Americans than ever before," the White House said in a statement.

According to the state allocation breakdown, cold-weather states with higher heating costs generally received more funding. Minnesota received nearly $274 million for home energy assistance to help families struggling with the costs of home heating. Meanwhile, Texas, which has a population five times larger, received just $10 million more.

New York state, with a population of fewer than 20 million people compared with Texas' 29 million, received just under $876 million.

Aerial view of Minneapolis, Minnesota showing the Crosstown highway interchange with 35W.

FILE - An aerial view of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is pictured in a file image dated Jan. 17, 2018. (Photo by: Michael Siluk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The White House also announced new commitments from seven major utility companies across the U.S. to guarantee no shutoffs for customers seeking assistance and to help expedite government aid. Atlantic City Electric, Baltimore Gas and Electric, ComEd, Delmarva Power, Pacific Gas & Electric, PECO and Pepco were named under the new commitments.

Seven other major utility companies made similar pledges late last year, which included DTE Energy, Eversource, Green Mountain Power, National Grid, NorthWestern Energy, Portland General Electric and Vermont Gas, as well as the delivered fuel trade association NEFI, according to the White House.

Electricity and natural gas prices are roughly 11% higher than a year ago, according to the Labor Department’s consumer price index. Residential heating oil prices are up about 40% from a year ago, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The extent of the increase has moderated in recent months as wholesale heating oil prices are roughly where they were at the start of October.

The additional government funding is meant to help cushion the shock of higher winter energy costs. But Republican lawmakers have said the overall relief package, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March, has caused higher levels of inflation by pumping too much money into the economy.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.