The federal program that helps millions of low-income Americans afford to heat and cool their homes got a boost in funding in this year’s budget law.
If you need help paying your utility bills, replacing your furnace, weatherizing your home or making other energy-related improvements, you can apply for financial aid through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Each year about 6 million households receive financial assistance through the program, which received a $250 million — or 7 percent — funding increase in a spending bill President Trump signed into law last month.
While LIHEAP is federally funded, the program is administered by the states. Each state sets a schedule for when it will accept applications for assistance.
Many states that traditionally cut off applications for heating assistance at the end of March are considering extending that deadline because of the boost in funding, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association. To see whether your state has lengthened the application period, you can contact your local LIHEAP office.
Individuals qualify for assistance based on family income and household size. States can set the maximum income level for eligibility at either: 150 percent of the federal poverty level, which in 2018 is about $30,000 a year for a household of three; or 60 percent of the state’s median income. In most states, assets are not counted in determining eligibility.
While most of LIHEAP’s resources go to help people heat their homes, some states also provide cooling assistance in warm weather. The program pays for part, not all, of the bills for heating or cooling. The average amount of assistance per household is about $500 a year.
LIHEAP also provides crisis or emergency assistance for families that have received a shut-off notice or had their service disconnected.
The money can help consumers lower future bills as well as pay current ones. For example, you can use the money to fix leaky windows and doors, install insulation, or repair or replace furnaces or air conditioners that are broken or inefficient.
To find out whether you qualify for LIHEAP and how to apply, contact your local or state LIHEAP office. You can also call the toll-free National Energy Assistance Referral Hotline at 866-674-6327 to get more information.