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Indiana to get a record $184M to help Hoosiers pay rising energy bills

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana will be getting $184.4 million as part of the federal American Rescue Plan to be dedicated to the state’s Energy Assistance Program.

The money comes as many Hoosiers see their heating bills double … or triple.

“In November, was $271. And then, we got the one for December, and it was $666.25. Literally, almost a $400 spike,” said Samuel Schmucker, a father of two.

Schmucker says his family has been layering up the past few weeks to try to avoid having to turn up the heat. “I got a thermal (on). I got a T-shirt and I got a hoodie. My kids are dressed the same.” 

But with bitter cold temperatures, he says, the pressure is mounting to provide for his family.

“I’m a landscaper, so I’m seasonal,” he says. “My wife is disabled … so I donate plasma every week just to make a little income.”

Soon, his family and other could qualify for energy assistance.

Greg Glassley, director of Indiana’s energy and utility programs, was pleased by the record amount going to the state’s Energy Assistance Program. “When you see that amount of additional (money), the first thing we think about is, ‘Oh, my gosh, we can have a greater reach.’ And we can ease that burden by that much more.”

Last year, Indiana received $70 million. Glassley says the increase in money during the winter and the coronavirus pandemic means more Hoosiers can get help and get bigger checks. He says since the program has been around for years, they are fairly good at distributing the money. However, he says, it does come with some challenges.

“Making sure that everybody who needs that assistance can get that in the time that we would like,” Glassley said. “That’s probably the biggest challenge, and that’s partly because you just want to help everybody as quickly as you can, and that’s just not feasible.”

In general to qualify, recipients have to make 60% or less of the state’s median income. For example, a family of four would need to make less than $52,000 a year to qualify. Glassley says, regardless of whether or not potential recipients think they qualify, they should apply if they’re in need.

Hoosiers can apply on the state’s website or call 211 for help.