Governor explores ways to help with high utility bills; signs bill to provide low-interest loans to municipal utilities

Gov. Laura Kelly said she is exploring several avenues to help individuals and communities with high utility bills from the recent subzero temperatures.

Gov. Kelly said she is signing a bill passed on Wednesday in the Kansas Legislature that would allow municipal utilities to borrow up to $100 million from the state to use toward expenses incurred because of the recent extremely cold temperatures.

The bill was fast-tracked through the Legislature in one day, and the governor signed it before the end of the day.

Gov. Kelly, at a news conference Wednesday, said the loan program would give cities with municipal utilities immediate relief, helping them to avoid dire effects of the extreme cold while the state is pursuing long-term solutions.

The bill, House Substitute for Senate Bill 88, would provide low-interest rates for loans to municipal utilities, and would go through the state treasurer’s office, which would approve applications from the municipal utilities.

The governor also said Wednesday that she was exploring ways to assist individuals with high utility costs from the February extreme cold weather.

The full extent of spikes in utility bills remains unknown, she said, but they know they will affect many people, as well as utilities, hospitals, residents, landlords and consumers.

The governor earlier announced she and the Kansas Corporation Commission were asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to investigate the causes of the energy shortages

“We really do have to get to the bottom of this,” she said, adding something like this cannot happen again.

She also has instructed her cabinet members to meet with stakeholders, to do whatever they can.

She also said additional funds are being provided by the Low-Income Emergency Assistance Program (LIEAP) for individuals who are encouraged to apply for the program.

The governor said she asked the White House Wednesday morning to work toward providing a waiver on the income qualifications, so that residents can get through this time. Currently, those who have an income up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level, or below, qualify for the LIEAP program.

The Kansas Housing Resources Corp. also has some funding available for statewide rental assistance and for utility assistance. The funds are available through the Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance (KERA) program administered by KHRC. The online KERA application will open on Monday, March 15. More information is at

In addition, Gov. Kelly said all Kansas Corporation Commission regulated utilities are offering payment plans to help customers spread out their costs. Customers may call their providers for options.

In Kansas City, Kansas, customers may call the BPU’s customer service office for more information about payment plans.

Gov. Kelly said she continues to seek solutions to protect Kansas residents from utility costs spikes.

The state contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to see if help was available with utility bills, but the agency doesn’t pay individual utility bills, she said. That is why the state is seeking other solutions, she added.

She said she also is working with the Kansas delegation and talking to the White House to find another route.

Applications for the LIEAP program must be received before 5 p.m. March 31. To find additional information about the LIEAP program and applications, visit

At Wednesday night’s Board of Public Utilities meeting, David Mehlhaff, BPU chief communications officer, said the municipal utility bill passing through the Legislature and being signed into law in one day was unprecedented, and he hadn’t heard of it happening before.

He said BPU was not hurt as much in the recent extreme cold weather as some of the smaller municipal utilities in the state.

Mehlhaff said the KHRC is currently building out its website, preparing application forms and hiring staff to launch this month to assist people with their utility bills. The BPU will be working with the United Way to get the information out to customers when the website applications begin. He is also working to get information out about the LIEAP program.

Mehlhaff said he was on a conference call Wednesday where funding for another $4.5 billion nationally through the end of September 2022 was being discussed for LIEAP. The bill currently is in the U.S. House, he said. He said he sent a letter to representatives to help support the legislation.

He said BPU General Manager Bill Johnson and he, along with Stephen Green, BPU director of water distribution, participated in a roundtable discussion Monday with U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-3rd Dist. Several other utilities also were on the call, he added. One of the BPU’s messages is that it needs federal grant funding, particularly with revisions to lead copper rules, where the BPU would have to replace lines to comply with regulations. It would place a burden on customers to replace those lines, he added.

Last Thursday Johnson and Mehlhaff participated in a Zoom call with Rep. Davids to talk about the recent February cold weather issues in the community, Mehlhaff said at the BPU meeting. They discussed the Southwest Power Pool issues and talked about utility disconnects, he said. The BPU recently extended a moratorium on utility disconnects through March 31.

The BPU also participated in Zoom calls with Sen. Jerry Moran’s and former Sen. Pat Roberts’ offices during the past year, sharing concerns and updates, he said, and BPU has advocated for CARES funding and other issues.

Mehlhaff also said he was delighted that BPU’s positions are front and center on infrastructure issues because Rep. Davids has been appointed vice chair on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

House Substitute for Senate Bill 88 passed with wide support in the Kansas Legislature on Wednesday. The final version of the bill is online at