Those sweating utility bills as a result of the scorching summer temperatures may qualify for assistance through HEAT — the Home Energy Assistance Target program from the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
“Following record June heat, many households may have already noticed an increase in their energy bills,” a press release from workforce services states. “Fortunately, Utah’s Home Energy Assistance Target (HEAT) program now provides year-round energy assistance so that eligible households can get help with cooling costs.”
According to the press release, qualified households must earn below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $39,750 annually for a family of four. HEAT assistance is prioritized by the highest energy burden in relation to the household income while considering vulnerable individuals such as young children and disabled and/or elderly family members.
“With rising costs associated with housing, many families are struggling to make ends meet,” stated Housing and Community Development Division HEAT Program Manager Sisifo Taatiti in the press release. “Helping clients through this difficult time is important to us, and we believe it improves the quality of life for our fellow citizens across the state.”
Susan Wright, a HEAT program case manager with the Bear River Association of Governments, said the HEAT location in Logan serves an approximate 2,500 families in Cache, Rich and Box Elder Counties. Wright said last year the program was expanded to a year-round program.
“There’s still a lot of people that aren’t aware” of the HEAT program, Wright said, “and probably aren’t aware that they can apply in the summer months now, too.”
According to Wright, applicants can only be eligible for HEAT benefits once per “HEAT season” or program year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. However, an applicant can apply for HEAT benefits each season without restriction.
“We help many clients over and over,” Wright said.
While applicants are required to be U.S. citizens or permanent residents to receive HEAT benefits, Wright said those without citizenship or permanent residency status can still receive assistance provided a member of their household — regardless of age — meets either qualification.
“If they have a person in the household that is eligible, they can still apply and that one person would be calculated,” Wright said.
Those who qualify for the program and have active utility accounts are provided a one-time lump sum that is distributed to utility companies at the client’s discretion.
“If you’re current on your bill, then you’ll have a credit on your account,” Wright said. “But many, many times the amount of the benefit is actually less than what they owe for non-payment or getting behind on their bills. … It happens an awful lot, especially during the winter months when some of the gas and electric bills are really high.”
Wright said many people seeking HEAT benefits are unaware of other offerings from BRAG, like housing and rental assistance. Wright encouraged those interested to visit brag.utah.gov or the physical office to learn about all BRAG’s programs.
“There’s more programs than just HEAT,” Wright said. “They do a lot of great things for a lot of people.”
For information about the HEAT program, visit jobs.utah.gov/heat or call 2-1-1.