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The Washington State Department of Commerce announced that it recently modified the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help low-income households cover cooling and air conditioning costs.

Until recently, the LIHEAP only covered assistance for heating. Households can now also get help with cooling and air-conditioning, as well as air purifiers during wildfire emergencies.

This past June, Washington confronted a smothering heat dome that ended up being the deadliest weather event in Washington history. It contributed to 125 heat-related deaths and nearly 450 excess deaths, such as strokes and heart attacks brought on by heat stress. The changing climate means such heat events are increasingly likely during Washington’s summer months. 

People who are low income or experiencing homelessness are the most vulnerable during heat waves, according to researchers, and adding cooling or air conditioning to a home can cost thousands of dollars to install.

LIHEAP is a federal block grant administered by Commerce. It provides households at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level with one-time heating or cooling grants made directly to the energy provider or utility. With LIHEAP, people can acquire heating or cooling units, pay bills and receive assistance with repairing or replacing unsafe, inoperative, or dysfunctional systems. And people in counties impacted by wildfire smoke may qualify for assistance to receive air purifiers if there is an emergency wildfire proclamation in place.