LIHEAP Eligibility Requirements

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You may be wondering whether you meet LIHEAP income guidelines to qualify for energy assistance. Formally known as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP assists low-income households with certain energy costs, such as heat and electric bills. Meeting HEAP income guidelines is the first step in qualifying for the program. Because these guidelines are not clearly defined by the federal government, states have the flexibility to take into account certain assets, exclusions and deductions when determining income eligibility.

Other eligibility requirements may include meeting citizenship and residency requirements. Generally, in order to receive benefits you must provide proof of recent utility bills and a disconnection or eviction notice. If you meet categorical eligibility guidelines, you may be exempt from having to provide any proof of eligibility requirements. Some states will not even require that you complete the full application process. To find out if you meet HEAP guidelines, read the following sections below.

Meeting Income Guidelines for LIHEAP

Every state must set LIHEAP income guidelines each year according to the Department of Human Health Services Poverty Guidelines and State Median Estimates issued on the Federal Register. States must set a maximum income level based on household size and the federal poverty level. These income limits must not exceed a certain percentage of the federal poverty level. If your household’s income exceeds this percentage, you will not qualify for any amount of energy assistance. However, states with a higher median income can set HEAP income guidelines that are higher than this maximum.

Because there is no clear definition of income, states define income in a variety of ways. Most states, such as New Hampshire, look at the gross income of an entire household. This is a household’s total pay before any taxes or deductions are taken into account. Additionally, some states take into consideration other factors such as assets, exclusions and deductions when determining whether applicants meet income LIHEAP income guidelines. For example, Michigan takes into account all assets above a certain amount. On the other hand, Vermont does not include any property, savings or retirement accounts when determining income.

In order to meet LIHEAP guidelines, you may need to provide proof of energy costs, such as utility and heating bills. Some states, such as Connecticut, will require that you pass an assets test to determine if your liquid assets exceed their maximum amount. In South Dakota, you must provide proof of a cut-off or eviction notice due to delinquent heat service payments. In Indiana, you must provide proof of income for the past three months for all household members older than 18 years of age, unless you are a full-time student. In this case, you will need to provide proof of enrollment in school. To find out if your household meets LIHEAP income limits, download our comprehensive guide.

Meeting the Definition of a Household

LIHEAP eligibility is ultimately determined by a household’s income in relation to its size. A household is considered an individual or group of individuals who live in the same home as one economic unit. When determining whether a household meets LIHEAP income limits, states will typically take into account the income of every household member above 18 years of age. Generally, one adult member of the household is responsible for paying energy bills and providing proof of payments.

To obtain certain types of assistance in some states, households must contain a member that falls under a specific category. For example, households in Nebraska must have a household member that is a child, a senior or an individual with medical conditions in order to receive cooling assistance. Additionally, some states, such as Nevada, require that all members meet residency and citizenship requirements. On the other hand, to meet HEAP qualifications in Utah, only one household member must be a U.S. citizen or qualified non-citizen. Before applying for LIHEAP, applicants must check their state’s LIHEAP guidelines to determine which members of their households will be evaluated for benefits.

Can you be automatically eligible for energy assistance?

If you already receive financial assistance from other government programs, you may automatically meet LIHEAP qualifications. These government programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and the Social Security Income (SSI) Program. Depending on your state, you may be able to submit a completed and signed application without verifying whether or not you meet HEAP income guidelines.

Some states do not even require that you submit an application but simply notify your local LIHEAP office of your need in energy assistance. In Alaska, you may receive automatic eligibility for heating and crisis benefits if you receive assistance from TANF, SNAP or SSI. In parts of Kentucky, you may receive automatic HEAP eligibility for heating, cooling, crisis and weatherization if you are a part of a certain veterans program.

Additional Eligibility Requirements for LIHEAP Benefits

While meeting LIHEAP income limits is one of the main channels to receiving energy assistance, there are other eligibility requirements that households must meet. All states have resident and citizenship requirements that must be met before receiving benefits. Because every state has their own LIHEAP income guidelines, all applicants must be residents in the state in which they plan to receive assistance. Additionally, either one member or all members of a household must be U.S. citizens or qualifying non-citizens. Most states will require that applicants provide proof through their Social Security Number and a copy of a state or federally issued photo identification card.

Furthermore, some states set a limit on when and how many times a household can request energy benefits. In Louisiana, applicants do not meet LIHEAP qualifications if they have received benefit payments in the past 6 months. The same rule applies in Washington where applicants are ineligible if they have already received a grant within the current program year.

Additionally, those who live in subsidized or public housing, typically do not meet HEAP eligibility requirements. To prove eligibility, residents must submit a completed and signed application to their local LIHEAP office. This excludes those that are not require to submit an application after meeting categorical guidelines. If you are still unsure whether or not you meet LIHEAP requirements, download our comprehensive guide to find out more.