The cost of living has gone up by a margin in the past year, leaving many low-income families torn between paying their utility bills and keeping food on the table.
This problem is offset by the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
With their help, low-income households can get assistance with their heating/cooling bills and instead be allowed to focus on other things, slowly working towards financial independence.
This is done by making direct payments to the family’s gas or electric utility company or by offering to pay for certain repairs on their home which may lead to improved efficiency of their heating/cooling systems.
This article will serve to guide you through the benefits that LIHEAP offers, eligibility for the program, and what you’ll have to do to benefit from it.
How does it work
Unlike other programs that offer cash assistance to struggling families in the US, LIHEAP covers a portion of their entire utility bill instead.
This way, the program is much harder to abuse, and it ensures that help is always delivered to those who actually need it.
It’s important to note that LIHEAP will only offer to pay for a single utility bill, meaning that you won’t be able to get assistance with your gas AND electricity expenses through this program.
Apart from offering assistance with the expenses, LIHEAPcan also offers to pay for any necessary repairs on the applicant’s home, usually ones that would contribute to the home’s safety and overall energy efficiency.
This also includes the installation of more modern heating systems which may reduce the overall heating or cooling expenses in the long run.
These systems usually pay for themselves within the first 5-10 years, and they’re a great addition to any home looking to reduce their utility costs.
Even though it’s a federal program, eligibility is managed on a state level, although there are still certain eligibility requirements that are the same for every state.
At the time, LIHEAP has no age requirement for the applicant, but the program will prioritize households with individuals above the age of 60.
Marital status isn’t a determining factor and it only contributes to the number of individuals in the same household, meaning that a household with additional members will have a higher financial limit for eligibility.
On top of this, assistance isn’t limited to US citizens, and qualifying immigrants can also receive help with their utility expenses.
However, all of this doesn’t guarantee that an applicant will actually receive help in the year they applied for the program, as the amount of funding for LIHEAP is limited and will first be distributed to those who need it the most.
How to apply
Due to the program has a very strict “first come, first get served” policy, except for households with individuals aged 60 and above, which leads to a rush to apply every fall when the program opens applications.
With this in mind, the administrative body usually allows households with an individual above the age of 60 to apply an entire month in advance, securing them the benefits for the coming year.
Even though it’s a seasonal program, cooling systems are still supported, and in hotter states like Arizona and California, LIHEAP is available all year round.
Much like the majority of other programs out there, applying for LIHEAP is free, although you will have to continue paying your bills until you’re approved for benefits, at which point you’ll only be required to pay a portion of them.
Finally, you should check with your utility company if they’re even participating in the program, as applying for benefits is pointless without their participation.
Heating and cooling systems can cost a lot if they’re not working at full efficiency, and certain homes, usually those in need of major repairs, can cause these systems to not operate properly.
Whether it’s draft or faulty installations in the home, these repairs have to be made in order to ensure a lower utility bill for the average low-income American family.
With the help of LIHEAP, these families can get assistance with their utility bills and/or repair costs, which gives them the opportunity to focus on other things, such as improving their financial situation and working towards financial independence.
The end goal of the program is to leave the household able to support itself, which then frees up funds to be spent on other households in need of assistance.
With the program having limited funds, applying for LIHEAP can be pretty hectic, and you’ll want to apply as soon as the program opens applications.
This will secure you a spot for the coming year and remove the burden of utility costs from your household.