You may be wondering if you meet LIHEAP income guidelines to qualify for energy assistance. Formally known as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP helps low-income households with certain energy costs, such as heat and electric bills. Making sure you meet HEAP income guidelines is the first step in qualifying for the program. These guidelines are not clearly stated by the federal government, so states have the flexibility to take into account certain assets, exclusions and deductions when determining income eligibility.
Other eligibility requirements can include meeting citizenship and residency criteria. Generally, to get benefits you have to provide proof of recent utility bills and a disconnection or eviction notice. If you meet categorical eligibility guidelines, you can be exempt from having to provide any proof of eligibility requirements. Some states do not even require that you complete the full application process. To learn more about what is required to qualify for HEAP, read the sections below.
Learn About the Income Requirements 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 cannot 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 different ways. Most states, such as New Hampshire, look at the gross income of an entire household, which is a household’s total pay before any taxes or deductions are taken into account. Some states also take into account other factors such as assets, exclusions and deductions to determine if applicants meet income LIHEAP income guidelines or not. For example, Michigan considers all assets above a certain amount. On the other hand, Vermont does not include any property, savings or retirement accounts to determine income.
To meet LIHEAP guidelines, you may be asked to give proof of energy costs, such as utility and heating bills. Some states like Connecticut will require that you pass an assets test to determine if your liquid assets exceed the maximum amount. In South Dakota, you must give proof of a cut-off or eviction notice due to delinquent heat service payments. In Indiana, you must give 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 give proof of enrollment in school.
To learn more about the LIHEAP income limits, download our free guide.
Learn How to Meet the Definition of a Household
LIHEAP eligibility is mainly determined by the income of a household in relation to its size. A household is considered a person or group of people who live in the same home as one economic unit. To determine if a household meets LIHEAP income requirements, states will normally take into account the income of every household member over 18 years of age. Generally, one adult member of the household is responsible for paying energy bills and providing proof of payments.
To get certain types of help in some states, households must have a member that falls under a specific category. For example, in Nebraska households must have a member that is a child, a senior or an individual with medical conditions to get cooling assistance. Additionally, some states like Nevada ask that all members meet residency and citizenship requirements. On the other hand, to meet HEAP qualifications in Utah, at least 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 see which members of their households will be evaluated for benefits.
Are some people automatically eligible for energy assistance?
If you already receive financial assistance from certain other government programs, you may automatically meet LIHEAP requirements. The government programs that allow someone to automatically qualify for LIHEAP 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 turn in a completed and signed application without verifying if you meet HEAP income guidelines or not.
Some states do not even require that you submit an application, you just need to notify your local LIHEAP office that you need energy assistance. In Alaska, you can get automatic eligibility for heating and crisis benefits if you receive assistance from TANF, SNAP or SSI. In parts of Kentucky if you are a part of a certain veterans program you can get automatic HEAP eligibility for heating, cooling, crisis and weatherization.
Learn About Additional Requirements for LIHEAP Benefits
Meeting LIHEAP income limits is one of the main ways to get energy assistance, but there are other eligibility requirements that households must meet. All states have resident and citizenship requirements that must be met before getting benefits. Because every state has their own LIHEAP income guidelines, all applicants must be residents in the state in which they plan to get assistance.
Also, either one member or all members of a household must be U.S. citizens or qualifying non-citizens. Most states will ask that applicants provide proof through their Social Security Number and a copy of a state or federally issued photo identification card.
Some states also set a limit on when and how many times a household can request energy benefits. In Louisiana, applicants who have gotten benefit payments in the past six months will not meet LIHEAP qualifications. The same rule applies in Washington, where applicants who have already gotten a grant within the current program year are ineligible.
Most states deny applicants who live in subsidized or public housing if their energy costs are included in their rent. However, this may not apply to people that meet categorical guidelines. Several states give reduced benefits to subsidized housing residents regardless if they pay directly for energy. And some states do not make a distinction between applicants in subsidized housing and non-subsidized renters.