(WPRI/NEXSTAR) — Billions of dollars in federal aid are being made available to help Americans with their heating bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

The Biden administration said Wednesday that roughly $4.5 billion has been allocated for LIHEAP this winter, to help low-income families pay their energy or utility bills, or, in some cases, to cover the cost of weatherization or repairs.

The funds will be distributed to states, territories and tribal governments this week.

LIHEAP, established in 1981, is funded by grants approved by Congress. Typical annual funding is somewhere around $3.5 billion, the Associated Press reported, though last year’s allocations amid the coronavirus pandemic totaled $8 billion.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which operates the assistance program, said LIHEAP helped 5.3 million families in 2021.

“For more than 40 years, this program has helped low-income families pay their home heating and cooling bills,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra stated in a news release issued Wednesday. “As heating costs increase, it is more important than ever to help families struggling to make ends meet. With this funding, we will help protect the health and well-being of Americans by keeping them safe and warm this winter.”

Officials from states across the country, meanwhile, are continuing to keep a close eye on weather forecasts ahead of winter. Resources have tightened amid the war in Ukraine, and inflation has contributed to rising fuel costs over last year. Even the U.S. Department of Energy projects sharp price increases for home heating compared with last winter, the Associated Press reported.

Families seeking aid from LIHEAP can learn more and apply for assistance with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Assistance is distributed through states, territories or tribal governments, and availability is based on income, family size or the availability of resources.

In addition to the $4.5 billion allocated for LIHEAP, the Department of Energy is allocating “nearly $9 billion” for states and tribes to put toward home efficiency programs, to help with upgrades for up to 1.6 million homes, the White House announced Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.