Energy Assistance Programs

The government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, also known as LIHEAP, helps households that need financial assistance paying their home energy bill. The program provides energy crises assistance, energy-related home improvement repairs and basic energy assistance that many families need throughout the year.

If you need help with bills, it is important to know whether your household is eligible to enter the program. You must meet certain household income criteria and other standards the government has in place. Learn more about the benefits of utility assistance, whether you qualify and how to apply today.

What is LIHEAP? 

LIHEAP energy assistance helps low-income households pay their energy bills. The goal of the program is to help families stay safe and healthy. Weather drastically changes throughout the year, so having the ability to heat or cool your air is essential. Therefore, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services administers the low-income energy assistance program, aiming to help families with their energy bills in the ways discussed below.

Regular Energy Assistance

Regular energy assistance helps households with their home energy expenses. LIHEAP provides families with a credit payment, which they may put toward their existing utility costs. Families receive their credit to pay their energy bill once a year. For example, in Hawaii, the minimum a household received to pay their heat bill in 2018 was $350, and the maximum was $1,380. The amount families get to help pay utility bills depends on where they live and the amount of money the family makes per year. 

Crisis Energy Assistance

The home energy assistance program also provides help in a crisis. In order to qualify for emergency energy assistance, you must be in one of the following situations:

  • Your energy service is or will be shut off.
  • You are running low on fuel, heating oil, propane or wood during winter.
  • You own a home and your furnace is not functioning properly.

If you encounter one of the situations listed above and believe you will have trouble paying for fuel or necessary repairs, you must apply for crisis energy assistance. Since it is an emergency, the government will review your request in 48 hours. If LIHEAP reviewers approve your request, you will receive the essentials you need depending on the situation you are in.

Like regular energy assistance, you will also receive a credit to help you pay for the emergency. The amount the government grants you depends on the state you live in and the circumstances you are in. For instance, in Delaware, applicants received a maximum of $5,000 in an energy crisis in 2018. However, in Kentucky, the maximum that residents were awarded was $250. 

Weather Related Crisis

If you have a home energy emergency due to a weather-related disaster, you can receive emergency energy assistance. This allows households to afford insulation, replacement of windows, and repairs heaters and furnaces. This part of the program ensures your safety after a natural disaster. Its goal is to ensure your energy system is functioning properly and replaces any energy-related damages that may affect you.

Eligibility Requirements for LIHEAP

There are certain requirements that families must meet in order to obtain low-income energy assistance. The most common requirements households need to satisfy involves their financial income. A family’s income will determine whether they qualify for home energy assistance. 

LIHEAP has established that 150 percent of the poverty level is the maximum income level for anyone who wishes to be allowed into the program. Ultimately, however, each state has a different dollar amount for annual income limits. For example, if four people live in your home, the maximum amount of income your family can make is $37,650 in Idaho. If your family’s income is greater than that amount, you are not eligible to receive help with bills. 

Additionally, you need to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to receive help. The program requires all applicants to have legal residency in the United States. You will need to provide proof of your permanent residency or citizenship when applying for low-income benefits.

How to Apply for LIHEAP

When applying for utility assistance, you must complete a LIHEAP application. Depending on the state you live in, you can access the application online, by mail or in person. The application will ask for information about you and your housing details, family income, address and other financial services you receive from the government. 

Each state requires detailed information to determine whether your family qualifies for the program. Be sure to fill out the application carefully, and do not knowingly misrepresent any information. You will need to provide proof of all details on your application, so be sure to fill it out to the best of your knowledge to avoid any potential fines or other consequences.

When submitting your application to your local LIHEAP office, you will be required to provide proof of the information you filled out. You will need to take the following documents with you on the day of your visit:

  • A duplicate of your energy bill.
  • A photo copy of every family member’s Social Security card.
  • A duplicate of your driver’s license or identification card.
  • A copy of every household member’s income.
    • Must be a copy of the most recent paycheck. 
  • Any income award letters you have received.
  • Proof of assistance you receive, such as:
    • Food stamps
    • Community Services Block Grant Program
    • Weatherization assistance program

Also, some states give you the option of emailing your application or sending it by regular mail. However, you will still need to email or mail your proof for the items listed above. In addition, when you submit your application, you can expect to know if you were accepted within 30 days. 

Note: When LIHEAP accepts your application, you can receive financial help for a year. After a year, you will have to submit a new application in order to continue to receive energy assistance.