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Columbia Gas advocates for funding for heating bill assistance

Stephen Huba
| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 10:42 a.m.
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Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania is meeting with members of Congress on Tuesday to discuss federal funding for the federal Low Income Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.

The meeting in Washington, D.C., was timed to coincide with LIHEAP Action Day and involved representatives from Columbia Gas and other NiSource utilities.

LIHEAP provides assistance to low-income families who have trouble keeping up with their heating bills in the winter. Eligibility currently is set at 150 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines , which, for an individual, is $18,090 and, for a family of four, is $36,900.

During the 2016-17 winter heating season, 170,867 customers in NiSource's seven-state service territory received more than $47 million in LIHEAP assistance, including 23,113 customers in Pennsylvania.

“It is critically important that Congress continue to adequately fund the LIHEAP program, which serves our most vulnerable customers during the times of year when they need utility services the most,” said Columbia Gas President Mike Huwar.

Approximately 6 million households are helped by LIHEAP in each heating season, but more than 35 million households are eligible for assistance, according to the National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition.

Despite the need, LIHEAP funding has been reduced by 34 percent since 2010. President Trump's budget for fiscal year 2019 has proposed eliminating LIHEAP funding entirely.

In Pennsylvania, LIHEAP assistance is still available for the 2017-18 winter heating season. Customers can apply through the PA Department of Human Services at http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/heatingassistanceliheap/ .

Customers having trouble paying their bills should contact Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania at 1-800-537-7431.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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