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The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally-funded program administered at the state, county or city level that helps low-income families pay the energy costs involved in heating or cooling their homes. LIHEAP can also help cover the costs involved in weatherizing a home, or preparing it to be energy efficient during weather extremes. Continue reading to get answers to some of the more frequently asked questions about the LIHEAP energy assistance program.
What kinds of utility bills are covered by LIHEAP benefits?
LIHEAP helps to cover utility bills directly related to heating or cooling a home, such as electricity and gas. LIHEAP program funds can only be used for water bills if the home is cooled by an evaporative cooler or heated with a boiler. Other types of heating fuel may be covered, such as oil, coal, propane, kerosene and wood or wood pellets.
How many times can I apply for LIHEAP each winter?
LIHEAP benefits are meant to assist in paying utility bills. A LIHEAP payment is not meant to cover an entire year, season or month of energy expenditures on heating or cooling utilities. Because of limited LIHEAP program funds, most people are only eligible to apply once a year for LIHEAP benefits.
My furnace is broken, and I cannot afford to fix it before winter. Can LIHEAP help me fix it?
Yes. LIHEAP energy assistance benefits can be used to help fix broken or malfunctioning furnaces and heaters, as well as air conditioners if you are using LIHEAP to help pay the costs of cooling your home in hot weather. Depending on the state and your eligibility for the program, you may be able to get replacement appliances.
Do I have to be a homeowner to qualify for LIHEAP benefits?
No. Renters are eligible to receive LIHEAP energy assistance because most renters pay their utility bills directly to the utility company. Even if you pay your utility costs indirectly as part of your total rent payment, you may qualify for LIHEAP assistance. However, if you live in Section 8 housing or other subsidized housing, you may not be able to apply for LIHEAP. Your local LIHEAP office will be able to tell you if your type of residence allows you to complete the application process.
Am I required to report my LIHEAP benefit payment as income?
No. LIHEAP utility assistance law states that the amount of any awarded LIHEAP benefit cannot be considered income or resources in any household. This means that you do not have to put your LIHEAP benefit amount on your tax return. LIHEAP heating help also cannot be counted as a resource or income when qualifying for food stamps, public housing or other federal and state welfare programs.
I applied for LIHEAP, but was told that funds were not available. What happened?
States are given a certain amount in LIHEAP grants each year and are required to pay the highest benefits to households that have the highest home energy costs or needs. In addition, families with at-risk individuals, such as an elderly, disabled or young family member receive help with utilities before households without at-risk people. Your LIHEAP caseworker can best explain the reasons you were unable to receive help from LIHEAP, but usually it is due to limited funds being used up before everyone could be helped.
Does LIHEAP offer any assistance to help keep energy costs down?
Yes, LIHEAP supports energy saving measures such as weatherization. The Weatherization Assistance Program improves the way a home keeps occupants protected from extreme temperatures. LIHEAP program funds can be used to install weather stripping around drafty windows and doors, replace broken windows, install insulation or fix malfunctioning or broken heating and cooling appliances. All of these measures help LIHEAP recipients lower their energy bills in the future.
I receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Does this mean I automatically qualify for LIHEAP?
Although LIHEAP income guidelines vary by state, in most cases, qualifying for SNAP means that you also meet the income requirements to receive help from LIHEAP. However, qualifying to apply for LIHEAP does not automatically guarantee that you will receive help with your heating or cooling costs.
What are some of the risks associated with not having adequate heating or cooling in my home?
LIHEAP utility assistance works to combat several health and safety problems associated with living in a home that lacks adequate heating or cooling. If you need help with utilities because your home is not warm enough in the wintertime, you may experience more frequent illnesses or an increase in symptoms related to chronic health problems such as arthritis. Inadequately heated homes have a higher rate of house fires due to using outdated heating sources, unattended fires or gas cooktops to heat the home. In excessively hot weather, heat strokes and other serious health conditions can be triggered by inadequate cooling.
Is U.S. citizenship required to receive LIHEAP benefits?
LIHEAP applicants must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. non-citizen national or a legally admitted alien. Some states only require that the household have at least one member that meets this requirement.
What is a LIHEAP “Clean and Tune” benefit?
Some LIHEAP utility assistance agencies may choose to offer this benefit to help keep primary heating equipment safe and energy efficient. Covered LIHEAP “Clean and Tune” benefits will vary by location, but may include chimney cleaning, furnace cleaning and tuning, thermostat repair or installation, carbon monoxide detector installation and minor repairs to heating systems.
How are LIHEAP payments made?
The way LIHEAP payments are made will vary from state to state. In some states, a LIHEAP payment check may be mailed directly to the applicant. In most states, the LIHEAP agency sends a payment directly to the utility or fuel provider designated on the application.
What counts as an emergency situation to apply for crisis LIHEAP benefits?
As with all other LIHEAP eligibility requirements, the definition of a crisis or emergency utility assistance situation may vary by state. In most cases, a LIHEAP crisis includes having your electricity or gas cut off or threatened to be cut off due to nonpayment. Running out of heating fuel, such as propane, oil, wood or kerosene and being unable to purchase more is a heating emergency. Having a broken furnace or other primary home heating source can also count as an emergency for filing a crisis LIHEAP application.
If I am experiencing a heating or cooling emergency, can LIHEAP help with anything other than my main heating and cooling bill?
Other types of LIHEAP crisis assistance will vary by location, but your LIHEAP agency may also provide non-energy related assistance. This LIHEAP crisis assistance may include blankets, emergency lodging, window air conditioners or space heaters and other forms of help to get through the crisis situation.
I applied for LIHEAP at the beginning of the open period, but we had to move to another apartment. Is my application still valid?
You will most likely need to submit another LIHEAP application that provides your new address. Contact the LIHEAP agency where you filed your initial application and reapply with a copy of the fuel bill for your new address.