(Bloomberg) -- The UK will pay its first cold weather subsidies of the season to some of the country’s most vulnerable households as temperatures plunged below freezing overnight.

Severe weather warnings were issued by the Met Office because of a sweep of cold air from the Arctic. Overnight temperatures dipped as low as -8.9 degrees Celsius (15.98 degrees Fahrenheit) in the village of Shap, England, according to a tweet by the national weather service on Thursday.

That has triggered the government to issue £25 ($30.40) cold weather payments to some of the most vulnerable households. The payment is automatic, going to people who receive certain welfare benefits when temperatures plunge to zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days in their postcode area. 

The freezing weather is the first test of the season for the country, which is already embroiled in a winter energy crisis caused by Russia squeezing exports of natural gas to Europe in retaliation for war-related sanctions. 

That has caused household energy bills to soar. Cold weather payments are just one of the measures aimed at keeping households warm this winter. The Treasury is also spending about £16 billion to subsidize families’ energy bills.

“Higher bills this winter mean the payments are more valuable than ever this year,” Richard Neudegg, policy director at price comparison service Uswitch.com, said in a statement.

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