Utility Bill Assistance with LIHEAP
LIHEAP is a Government program that helps low income individuals and families meet their heating and cooling costs. If these expenses are eating up a big part of your budget, read on for more information!
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a Government program that helps low income individuals and families pay for home heating and cooling costs. The program is a federally funded benefit that operates throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Indian or tribal organizations, and US territories. Because the program is operated at the state level, you will need to check the exact requirements and provisions for your state.
An Explanation of Benefits
LIHEAP is focused on the providing assistance with adequate heating and cooling. It is not a plan to help with all utilities. Many states have programs to help with utility costs beyond heating and cooling; however, by limiting the application to only home environment and by designating a broad income eligibility level, this program is able to provide benefits to more households.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most common benefit is a one-time payment of a portion of the cost to heat the home. During the application process, you will be asked how your residence is heated: gas, electric, wood, propane, etc. The benefits will be directed toward paying that fuel cost.
LIHEAP is available to both renters and homeowners.
In some situations, funds are available for weatherization and energy-related minor home repairs.
In times of extreme fuel costs or severe weather, energy crisis assistance may be available.
Money may be sent directly to the households, to utility companies, or to landlords on behalf of the household. States can determine how to pay benefits.
Benefits are not considered income and are not taxable.
Funds are available only for households, not for nonprofits or for companies or organizations.
Individual and Household Requirements
- Eligibility requirements are primarily based on income and household size.
The federal standard has been set at 150% of the poverty line or 60% of the state median income. Some variation exists from state to state, but the eligibility standard cannot dip below 110% of the poverty line for that state.
Categorical eligibility exists in some states, meaning that if a household already receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Food Stamps, they automatically qualify for LIHEAP.
Consideration may be given to family assets or residence in non-subsidized housing.
In some situations, a family may become eligible upon receipt of a disconnect notice.
Recipients must live at home. They cannot live in hospitals, medical facilities, or community residences such as shelters.
Energy Vendor Requirements
- In addition to individual eligibility requirements, recipients must be customers of approved energy vendors. In areas that have several providers of fuel, the state may designate specific companies that it will work with to provide benefits. In order to receive the benefits, you must be a customer of one of the regulated utility companies.
- Payment of all benefits hinges on funding from the federal government. If all of the funding has already be designated to other households, individuals and families who otherwise meet terms of eligibility may be turned away.
The Application Process
In most states, you can apply online, over the phone, or in person. Compared to other federally-funded, state-administered benefits and subsidies, the LIHEAP application process is relatively quick and easy. Many applicants complete the application and submit the necessary documents in less than an hour. Your state may use the same form for different utility programs; in that case, you may be able to skip any part of the application that is for another program. You can find information at the LIHEAP website by clicking here
, by calling (202) 429-8855, or by writing [email protected]
You may be asked to provide some or all of the following:
A completed application
Proof of citizenship or legal residence status
- Naturalization paper/ certification of citizenship, permanent visa, birth certificate/hospital birth records, refugee registration card, US passport, INS ID card, military service records, Indian census record, or voter registration card are the most common ways to verify citizenship or status.
Detailed account of sources of income
- You will be asked to account for the gross (before taxes) income of all household members minus wages earned by members under 18 years of age. Recent pay stubs or tax returns serve as proof of income. You will need to account for any benefits received such as disability, pension, Social Security, Medicare, military pay, child support, interest, unemployment, or workers' comp.
Detailed account of how bills are paid
- You may be asked to list other expenses such as food, cable TV, phone, car, and insurance. How do you pay those bills? Do you pay yourself, pay with a gift, or receive subsidies to help?
Copies of 3 months of utility bills
Utility termination notice
- If you have received notification that utility service will be cut off due to lack of payment, bring the written notice.
Proof of present address
- rent receipt, lease, deed, tax bill
Proof of total members living in your household
- birth certificates, school records
Social Security card
Once you have submitted your application and documents, you can expect quick results, usually within 12-48 hours. Unlike other benefit programs that may take weeks, months, or even years, LIHEAP works swiftly to get eligible recipients the benefits they need before they face termination/reconnection fees and before health and safety risks put lives in danger.