$200K in emergency energy assistance announced for 3 MT tribes - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

$200K in emergency energy assistance announced for 3 MT tribes

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HELENA - Governor Steve Bullock on Friday announced that $200,000 in emergency energy assistance funding will be released to assist eligible families on the Blackfeet, Fort Belknap and Northern Cheyenne reservations facing severe winter weather conditions.

Gov. Bullock issued an executive order last week declaring a state of emergency on the Blackfeet, Fort Belknap, and Northern Cheyenne reservations and in Glacier County and Golden Valley Valley County.

The communities of Heart Butte, Browning, and East Glacier have been especially hard-hit, with some areas recording more than 70 inches of snow in February. Several storm systems in late February also caused ground blizzard conditions, leaving drifts of more than six feet in their week. 

In making the announcement on Friday in a press release, Gov. Bullock said, “Tribal, state and local leaders and volunteers have come together over the past several weeks to take care of our fellow Montanans during this brutal winter. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure our neighbors stay safe and keep warm.” 

State officials have received reports through regular communication with local officials in these areas of the state that due to the extreme winter conditions, several local residents have exhausted their ability to pay extra high heat bills or purchase propane or firewood. In addition, officials with all three of these Tribal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs (LIHEAP) have already or will soon exhaust their crisis funds due to the increased need. 

Blackfeet Tribal Chairman Harry Barnes said this funding to address a specific need comes at just the right time. “We continue to assess the impact of this year’s winter storms to our citizens, and the need for additional energy assistance is an issue that has come up,” he said. “This funding is very timely, and much appreciated.”

“This is a program that exists to help people, and we’re proud to partner with local Tribal officials to address this emergent need,” said Sheila Hogan, Director of the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services. 

The emergency energy assistance funds will be made available to the three local Tribal LIHEAP agencies through a contract with DPHHS. The funding will be available to those individuals who either are already receiving LIHEAP assistance or who may be eligible.

The federally funded program is designed to assist low-income households to meet the expenses of keeping warm during the cold months. Those wishing to apply are encouraged to visit their local energy assistance offices or visit www.lieap.mt.gov for more information. 

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