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Appointment requests for LIHWAP end February 16

Step Forward’s Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), which has been a vital resource for families struggling with water and wastewater bills, will expire March 31, 2024.

Water runs from a faucet.

The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program was established in 2020 under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The service was intended to temporarily help low-income households have access to safe and clean drinking water and wastewater services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to its implementation, there was no federal assistance program available to help families who were struggling to pay their water bill.

“Access to clean and safe drinking water and wastewater services shouldn’t be a privilege,” Jacqueline Boehnlein, Step Forward’s Vice President of Community Services, said. “This is a health issue. It is a fundamental human right. It’s a cornerstone of public health, environmental sustainability, and social justice.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ initial LIHWAP Implementation and Impact Report, the program served more than one million households nationwide through the end of June 2023. At that time, the federal government recognized the need for assistance and extended the program through 2024.

Since LIHWAP’s inception, Step Forward’s Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program has been instrumental in providing more than $590,000 to Cuyahoga County households in need.

“Across the country and here at home in Cuyahoga County, the need for utility assistance remains pressing. Step Forward is committed to doing everything in its power to help those in need, ensuring that no one is left behind in accessing essential services,” Boehnlein promised.

Step Forward’s LIHWAP appointment scheduling is fully booked through March. In order to ensure that the agency can process LIHWAP payments by the program’s deadline, Step Forward will stop accepting additional appointment requests on February 16, 2024.  

HEAP representatives help a client.

“We will offer a very limited number of walk-in appointments for LIHWAP through February 29, 2024, but those time slots are not guaranteed,” Boehnlein warned.

Statistics show an overwhelming number of people qualify for utility assistance nationwide.

According to the United States Census Bureau, more than 37 million people continue to live in poverty post-pandemic, making them eligible to apply for economic aid and assistance such as LIHWAP.

The U.S. Census Bureau dug deeper into the metrics and revealed in 2023 that Ohio’s poverty level was at 13.4 percent.

“This year is the 60th anniversary of America’s War on Poverty. There is a connection to Community Action’s roots and making sure low-income households met basic needs like running water. Back then, the movement was to get running water and sewer service for every home regardless of income. As the LIHWAP program comes to an end, we still need continued supports for affordability,” Boehnlein acknowledged.

Even though Step Forward’s Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program will terminate, the agency will continue to offer its seasonal crisis programs for heating and cooling, and the Payment of Income Payment Plan program.

For more information about Step Forward's energy assistance services, click here.

To make a LIHWAP appointment, call (216) 350-8008 or visit

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