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Starting this week, Arkansans can begin applying for help to pay their energy bills and get air conditioning through $8.2 million in COVID-19-related relief funding.

The relief funding is provided through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help people pay overdue energy bills and help with winter fuel resources like wood.

The Central Arkansas Development Council, which funds LIHEAP, has helped more than 17,000 people this year, according to a news release. They also provide rent and emergency food-box assistance.

The three changes to the program this year include:

- Adding housing energy help in winter months, no longer just summer.

- The maximum is now $1,500 in benefits, up from $500.

- Residents can submit a past-due notice, no longer a present shut-off notice.

About $1.2 million of the relief funding will be allocated to the Summer Cooling Program, an air conditioning program that will help qualified residents.

If you don't have an air conditioning unit or it's broken, this program allows you to get repairs or installation. The qualifications include elderly, disabled, children aged 5 and younger, and/or a medical condition that can be verified.

Miller County residents can apply from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Mondays and Tuesdays at 4415 Jefferson Ave.

Other Southwest Arkansas residents seeking to request a LIHEAP application, can call 501-326-6229.

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