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Washington State News

Federal Grant Helps Low-Income Washington Households Stay Cool

(The Center Square) – Some Washingtonians can receive financial help in escaping the summer heat. The state’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program now makes grants for certain cooling units to eligible applicants.

LIHEAP distributes funds from the federal block grant program to help low-income households in utility services and avoid disconnection. In October 2021, the scope of the program was widened to support the acquisition of mobile air conditioning units rated to cool a space of at least 300 square feet.

Eligibility is set at an income at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. For an individual, the qualifying amount is $1,610 per less per month. For a family of four, $3,313 per month.

Higher-than-average temperatures are forecast this week across Washington. Seattle may reach 91 degrees by midweek, compared with average July high temperature of 72. Spokane is forecast to reach 105 degrees, 16 degrees above its average summertime high. Yakima’s high temp could top 110 degrees, 21 degrees above the norm.

The LIHEAP program, operated by the state Department of Commerce, has been receiving 50 to 100 phone calls a day about cooling assistance program manager Brian Sarensen said, according to published reports. To date, 1,324 air conditioners have been provided to Washingtonians, most in King County, the report stated.

About 53% of Washington households used some air conditioning in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. About 30% of Washington homes are equipped with central air. Nearly a quarter of others have individual air conditioning units. Nationwide, nearly 90% of households used air conditioning during that time period.

In April, the Washington State Building Code Council effectively banned non-electric heating in commercial buildings, which could mean increased use of heat pumps in apartment buildings in the future. Heat pumps can also provide air cooling. 

The record high temperature in Washington was 120 degrees, recorded by the U.S. Department of Energy at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation on June 29, 2021.