Department Of Human Services Announces Public Comment Period For Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program Funding Plan Available Through American Rescue Plan Act
The Department of Human Services (DHS) today released for public comment Pennsylvania’s proposed model plan for the new Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). The grants, made possible through funding from the American Rescue Plan, will be provided to states to assist low-income households with water and wastewater bills. DHS is accepting public comment on the plan through July 25, 2021.
“Many households, through no fault of their own, have been in danger of losing or have already lost their water services due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn. Low-income households in Pennsylvania are susceptible to great harm if their essential water services are disconnected,” said Acting DHS Secretary Meg Snead. “Nobody should ever have to go without essential utilities, and that’s why it is vital that we take advantage of programs like LIHWAP to help people pay their bills and stabilize their housing situation. I hope people will take this opportunity to comment on our proposed LIHWAP plan so we can ensure that we are providing the best possible version of this program to the people who need it most.”
DHS’ proposed LIHWAP plan, estimated to begin in January 2022, will use the American Rescue Plan grants to restore water services to households without them and to pay existing arrearages to water companies to prevent the disconnection of drinking water or wastewater services. LIHWAP funds will be paid directly to a household’s water utility provider to help offset costs for water utilities. Households will only be able to receive LIHWAP benefits once for a specific type of water provider. If a household has a drinking water bill and a separate wastewater bill, they could receive a benefit for each; however, if the household has a single account for both drinking water and wastewater, they will only be eligible for a one-time benefit.
Households will need to apply for LIHWAP benefits and provide proper verifications to determine eligibility, such as proof of responsibility for the water and/or wastewater bill and the amount necessary to restore service or prevent shut-off. DHS will consider an applicant household that is actively receiving Supplemental Security Income, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) as income eligible for LIHWAP assistance. A household will also be income eligible if they received Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) benefits during the 2021-2022 or 2022-2023 seasons.
Interested stakeholders and parties can review Pennsylvania’s proposed LIHWAP model plan and provide feedback by noon on July 25, 2021 either in writing via email to LIHEAPmail@pa.gov or by mail addressed to Division of Federal Programs and Program Management, Department of Human Services, DGS Annex, Room 224, Willow Oak Building, 1006 Hemlock Drive, Harrisburg, PA 17110.
While DHS is accepting comments on its LIHWAP model plan in preparation for submission, households may currently be eligible for up to 18 months of assistance to cover past-due or future rental and/or utility payments through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). ERAP assistance can be provided to renters, landlords, and utility providers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic insecurity.
ERAP assistance provided to a household is determined by program administrators at the county level, and counties may choose to provide additional assistance to eligible households if funds remain available. About two-thirds of Pennsylvania counties have partnered with DHS to make ERAP applications available to their residents online at www.compass.state.pa.us. The remaining counties opted to accept applications from county residents through their own application process. Residents of all counties can visit COMPASS for information on how to apply for ERAP, including residents of counties that have developed their own process. If a person tries to apply through COMPASS but indicates that they reside in one of the 22 counties with its own application, they will be provided with information about how to apply, including a link to the county application if available.