- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota is getting more federal money to help low-income people heat their homes.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week released another $439 million nationwide for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, better known as LIHEAP, to go along with an initial appropriation of $2.9 billion that came last November. North Dakota is getting $3.4 million in the latest allocation - with $817,000 earmarked for American Indian tribes - bringing the state’s total award for the heating season to $25.7 million, compared with $23.7 million last winter.

Carol Cartledge, director of North Dakota’s Economic Assistance Policy Division, said the additional money was not expected, but also not out of the ordinary. Federal officials often look at additional LIHEAP appropriations midwinter, she told The Associated Press on Friday.

U.S. Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., issued statements praising the decision by Health and Human Services, especially in light of a nationwide propane shortage that has been exacerbated by recent cold weather. The cost of the gas has more than doubled.

“This winter’s harsh weather conditions and propane shortages have created considerable financial burdens for many families trying to heat their homes, and the additional allocation of LIHEAP dollars will help ensure that North Dakotans can pay their energy bill and stay warm,” Hoeven said.

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border, has about 5,000 homes that rely on propane, and the tribe has declared an emergency and opened two shelters for those without heat.

“Our Native American brothers and sisters, as well as families all across North Dakota, are feeling the pain of two sharp swords - a particularly brutal winter and sky-high propane prices,” Heitkamp said.

Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II said Friday that the tribe so far has been able to help everyone in need, but he worries about the coming weeks.

About 10,000 people statewide have applied for LIHEAP help, according to Cartledge.

“North Dakota will be able to meet the needs of the qualified households,” she said.

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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