Ohio's 1981 Home Energy Assistance Program

HRD-81-122: Published: Jul 15, 1981. Publicly Released: Jul 28, 1981.

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GAO was asked to review Ohio's handling of its 1981 Low Income Energy Assistance Program. Concern had been expressed as to the delays surrounding Ohio's initial request for and receipt of Federal funds, delays in program implementation, initial use of available Federal program funds, and planned use of the remaining unexpended Federal funds. Under the Home Energy Assistance Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) may make grants to States in accordance with approved plans for providing assistance to eligible households, enabling them to meet rising home energy costs.

A delay of 28 days occurred between the date HHS approved Ohio's energy assistance plan and the date the State received its first Federal payment. Ohio officials believed that they had submitted to HHS the financial data needed to immediately trigger Federal funding after the plan was approved. However, the required financial data were not actually submitted to HHS until a later date. Even after being formally notified of the HHS financial requirements, Ohio officials did not immediately submit the needed information because of an oversight. The delays in requesting and receiving Federal energy assistance funds appear to have had little impact on the startup of the 1981 energy assistance program because of other factors. The State's ability to disburse the initial funds was affected by an unanticipated change in program direction and problems in printing new mailout applications. The mailing of applications to potential recipients was delayed by about 1 month because of these problems. Because of the delays encountered, Ohio had a large amount of Federal funds on hand at the end of February 1981. According to State officials, these funds were probably invested by the State Treasury, and the income earned was retained by the State. It appears that Ohio will receive its entire allotment and will attempt to spend all of it by the end of September 1981 by giving all of the eligible households a supplemental payment. The State's supplemental payment approach is permissible under the State's approved energy assistance plan.

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