ON Services

Congress passes bill for FA Department to offer low-income household water bill assistance

The Osage Nation Financial Assistance Department will soon offer water bill assistance for low-income households funded by American Rescue Plan Act money.

During the 12th Special Session, the Seventh ON Congress unanimously passed bill ONCA 22-20 (sponsored by Second Speaker Jodie Revard) which includes a $178,739 appropriation for the program. The Financial Assistance Department will administer the water assistance along with its other available services.

Andrea Kemble, FA Department director, told the Congressional Appropriations Committee on Dec. 14 that her office planned meetings with local water vendors, including city governments and rural water districts, to “announce the program since it’s so new to the community and new to them, so they’ll know what we’re doing as we assist our households and after that we’ll open it to the public.”

Revard asked Kemble if the program mirrors the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides residential energy assistance and heating/ cooling unit repairs. Kemble said yes, adding “these funds are strictly for assistance on water use for residential use, so that can include their basic water bill, stormwater, waste/ sewage, those expenses that LIHEAP doesn’t cover. LIHEAP’s only energy-related, so this water program is going to help with those water expenses only for residences.”

ONCA 22-20 passed with a 12-0 vote on Dec. 15 and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear signed the bill to take effect afterward.

For the Nation’s Energy Assistance Program services, the following is available on the Nation’s website:

The Energy Assistance Program operates on a fiscal year (October-September) and serves low-income Native American households within the Osage Reservation (Osage County) by providing residential energy assistance and repair to heating/cooling units. This program provides financial assistance applied to the energy bill and operates on a seasonal schedule, a heating season, cooling season and a Crisis.

-        Heating Assistance is available from Nov. 1 through March 31 and may be awarded once each fiscal year per applicant. The benefit includes payment for a utility that provides heat to the home. The utility can be propane, natural gas, or electric. The benefit also includes a space heater, an electric blanket and/or weatherization materials as funding permits.

-        Cooling Assistance is available from April 1-Aug. 31 and may be awarded once each fiscal year per applicant. The benefit includes payment for an electric bill. This benefit also includes an oscillating box fan and/or weatherization materials, as funding permits.

-        Crisis Assistance is available throughout each year and may be awarded once each fiscal year per crisis-eligible applicant. This benefit provides either utility assistance or Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) repair/replacement for eligible homeowners, or HVAC system preventative maintenance. The program will provide an intervention that will resolve the energy crisis within 18 to 48 hours. The applicant must have used a regular heating or cooling benefit before applying for the crisis utility benefit.

More information on available services and printable forms are available on the ON Financial Assistance Department website at: www.osagenation-nsn.gov/services/financial-assistance