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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Hoosiers report difficulty accessing millions in CARES Act funding for utility bills

On June 3, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority announced an additional $17 million from the CARES Act for energy assistance.

INDIANAPOLIS — The deadline for COVID-19 energy assistance is quickly approaching. Yet some Hoosiers say they're having trouble getting to the millions set aside for gas and electric bills.

Questions about the COVID-19 Energy Assistance program first came to the attention of 13News from Bonnie in Hendricks County. 

Bonnie's income was impacted by the pandemic and she was seeking help with utility bills. But she couldn't find a specific location for the assistance, so 13News decided to take a closer look.

On June 3, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority announced an additional $17 million from the CARES Act for energy assistance.

That's money to help Hoosiers who lost a job or saw decreased hours due to COVID-19 cover their gas and electric bills. 

Those applying could receive a one-time benefit of up to $350.

But when Bonnie and others reached out to apply for the funds, there was no specific office to handle the requests.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the agency that announced the program, has a recorded message to callers:

"Energy Assistance is administered by local partner agencies and not IHCDA."

Instead callers are referred to 2-1-1. Indiana 2-1-1 is an information and referral service. 

13News followed its prompts for COVID-19.

Using the zip code for 13News, a community navigator provided the names of three organizations that operate low-income energy assistance programs.

They included the Concord Neighborhood Center, the John Bonner Center and the Indianapolis Energy Assistance Program (EAP). 

According to 2-1-1, the CARES Act money was sent to programs already providing energy assistance programs. Most of those social services programs will handle the COVID-19 requests as well.

In Bonnie's case, the partner that stepped up to help was the Area IV Aging and Community Action Program in Lafayette.

On it's Facebook page, the agency says applicants must provide a wage statement from their employer showing lost pay or hours after March 6. 

The benefit is available through July 3, the day the governor's Executive Order expires.

2-1-1 is the best number to call, but there can be slight wait times on the referral line. 

Callers are asked to have pen and paper handy to write down the information necessary to begin the application process for energy assistance.