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Oklahomans can now apply for assistance with summer water, electric bills

 window-mounted air conditioner
Airam Dato-on

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is accepting applications for household utility assistance. Many Native American tribal nations also have assistance money to distribute. These programs are to make sure people maintain access to water and electricity during the summer heat.

Water Assistance

The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program uses federal pandemic relief funds to help Oklahomans maintain their access to water and sewer services — that money must be used by September of this year. The program provides a one-time stipend that goes directly to the recipients’ utility provider to cover bills.

The program also provides separate emergency assistance for households that have lost access or are in danger of losing access to water or wastewater utilities.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a search tool that provides points of contact for water assistance programs in all states, territories and tribes that offer them.

Eligibility for assistance from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is based on income limits, and the program will give priority to households with older adults, children or people with ongoing medical conditions. The application is available on the OKDHS website.

Each tribe has different rules about eligibility, but people enrolled in a tribe may be eligible for assistance from their tribe or a different tribe whose service area they live within. You can read more about each tribe’s assistance funding and eligibility process on its Tribal Summary Profile.

Energy Assistance

The Low-Income Household Energy Assistance Program works similarly to the water program but for electric and gas utility bills. It’s offered twice a year to make sure people have air conditioning during dangerously hot months and heat during the winter. The federal government has allocated nearly $17 billion across all states and tribes for energy assistance programs over the past three years.

The eligibility requirements and application for energy assistance through OKDHS are the same as for water assistance. People who are already receiving other state assistance, like SNAP or Medicaid, may be pre-authorized for this program.

Oklahoma also offers an Energy Crisis Assistance Program year-round, which is intended to help restore services to households that lose access to electricity or gas.

Information and points of contact for energy assistance from tribes are available through a USDHHS search tool.

There is no fee to apply or receive assistance from these programs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says people should contact their fraud hotline if anyone offers them a direct grant to cover water utilities or tries to charge a fee to apply for assistance.

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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