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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

Florida will receive $106M in federal funds to lower home energy bills

 Duke Energy linemen restore power in Sebring
Gabriella Paul
WUSF Public Media
Duke Energy linemen restore power in Sebring on Sept. 30, 2022, following the impacts of Hurricane Ian. Officials say that the occurence of extreme weather events factors into climbing energy costs nationally.

The funding is part of a nearly $3.7 billion allocation to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program through next September.

The Biden Administration renewed funding for a federal program that helps lower energy bills, according to an announcement on Tuesday.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program offers financial assistance with energy bills to eligible individuals and families.

"This funding is a lifeline for low-income communities. It helps keep your energy bills low so that you can keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and it's going to allow families to afford home energy costs on top of other essentials like food, medicine and housing," according to Maggie Thomas, the chief of staff for the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.

Florida is set to receive $106 million in LIHEAP funding for the 2024 federal fiscal year, which spans Oct. 1, 2023, through Sept. 30, 2024. For fiscal year 2023, the state was awarded nearly $203 million in LIHEAP funding.

Last year, Florida experienced record demand for the federal program. In Hillsborough County, officials said that many residents were struggling to keep up with climbing energy costs and overdue electric bills.

READ MORE: As electricity costs surge, more Hillsborough residents are struggling to keep their lights on

Since then, in 2023, many consumers in the greater Tampa Bay region have received notices of rate increases. Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy, and Tampa Electric Co. proposed rent increases in January citing the need to recoup hurricane losses and offset higher natural gas prices.

Thomas said there's a connection between more frequent extreme weather events and the climbing cost of home energy nationally.

"In 2023, there's been 24 extreme climate disasters across the country that have each caused a billion dollars of damage or more. That is a really, really big number. And that has a significant impact on families across the country. When you think about specifically the cost of energy," she said.

Thomas says that's especially true in Florida, where severe hurricanes have impacted energy costs.

Research shows consumers are also often footing the bill for storm preparations by energy servicers — even if their area isn't directly hit — according to a WUSF report.

Beyond helping lessen the energy burden on consumers generally, LIHEAP funds "may be used for weather related emergencies, supply shortage emergencies, and other household energy related emergencies including the reconnection of electrical service," according to a memo by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

States hold discretion with how to distribute the federal funds. Individuals can also check identify their eligibility status by visiting energyhelp.us.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a  Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.