(WTNH) – Just in time for the colder weather, Congress approved an increase in energy assistance funding last week. The experts say the time to sign up is now.

Last week, congress approved $1 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP. The program is administered by the state to help people pay their heating bills.

“If your heating is included in your rent, you can apply,” explained Commissioner Deidre Gifford of the Department of Social Services. “If you get deliverable fuel, home heating oil, you can apply. Or if you heat with gas or electricity.”

It can mean hundreds of dollars in help, depending on the size of your family. Families making less than $76,000 a year may be eligible.

“That means it’s not just the lowest income families,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut). “That means there are a lot of families that are making an income, maybe two incomes, and still having trouble paying the bills.”

The $1 billion is more than expected. It means about $20 million more in heating help for the state of Connecticut. Amos Smith, the president, and CEO of the Community Action Agency of New Haven says his clients need every penny.

“They’re having to deal with escalating costs of the price of rent, and they’re having to deal with escalating costs of the price of fuel and electric,” Smith said.

If you think you might be eligible, there are several ways you can apply. You can walk into your local Community Action Agency. You can call 211 to find out where your local Community Action Agency is, or you can apply online here.