LIHEAP: Keeping More than the Lights on For Low-Income Families

The LIHEAP program was established more than 30 years ago by the Congress. The abbreviation means Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services and operated by state agencies and provides low-income individuals and families with financial assistance to pay their utility bills through the use of federal grants supplemented by private funds. Originally, LIHEAP began in the northeast but has eventually expanded to the entire United States.

What LIHEAP assisted with originally was just the electricity and fuel costs. Lately, LIHEAP has gone beyond just electricity and fuel costs as the program the program provides a variety of services for low-income Americans to ensure safe living conditions year-round. Since its inception, it has helped 7 million people, including the elderly, disabled, and families with young children.
Generally, LIHEAP can be regarded as a form of government assistance. An LIHEAP qualified individual has the opportunity of receiving a subsidy to offset a portion of their heating and cooling costs. LIHEAP is also available for people who might otherwise have to sacrifice food or medicine in order to pay for their heating and cooling costs. LIHEAP help such people stay afloat. LIHEAP also provides extra assistance during times of emergency such as extreme cold or heat or a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake.

Another thing LIHEAP do is to use grants for residential weatherization projects and energy-related education programs to further help low-income individuals reduce their energy costs. Other services include improving heating and cooling safety as well as preventing medical issues caused by indoor temperatures that are too cold or hot.

The eligibility requirements for LIHEAP in each state are different. This is because each state agency sets the specific eligibility requirements for their state. In general, however, LIHEAP is typically available for low-income individuals in a wide variety of situations. A renter, for example, generally qualifies whether they live in subsidized or public housing, and the funds may be given to the renter as a reimbursement for their utility bills or provided directly to the landlord to decrease the rent he charges.

Another fact about LIHEAP is the fact that most families who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are also liable for LIHEAP and in some states can even apply for the benefit while applying for the others. You’re also usually eligible if you are receiving benefits from Social Security or the Veteran’s Administration (VA). 

An amazing fact about receiving the benefits of LIHEAP is that being employed does not disqualify you from being eligible for LIHEAP for as long as your earnings are less than the maximum income limit. This maximum income limit for LIHEAP varies from state to state.
There is no set specific amount that individuals or families can receive as benefits of LIHEAP. Amounts vary from state to state and the specific circumstances of each applicant. As a general rule, the amount you can receive is determined based on your income, the number of people in your family and how much you pay for heating and cooling costs.

Weatherization services are also part of the LIHEAP benefits and some of these services include home repairs and weatherization enhancements. These can help the homeowner (or resident) reduce energy costs by making the home more energy-efficient. These services are a natural extension of LIHEAP as they help reduce overall energy consumption and the need for energy assistance.

The service of LIHEAP differs as it depends on your location. Contacting the state agency that provides LIHEAP funding in your state is the best way to find out the exact services available to you. Possible services include assistance with overdue bills to keep utilities from being turned off, replacing old and inefficient air conditioners or heaters, or providing help during or after emergencies to reduce the chance of utility-related injuries or property damage, such as turning off utilities after a hurricane or flood to prevent electrocution.