Cold weather is just around the corner. If you’re anxious about the cost of heating your home this winter, you’re not alone. The good news is you could qualify for assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally funded program that began in 1982 to help low-income households that pay a high proportion of income for home energy.
LIHEAP helps with heating and cooling costs as well as certain home weatherization projects. In 2009, the program assisted 434,141 California households with their energy costs.
State residents age 65 and older, the disabled and households with young children could receive assistance paying their utility bills if they meet LIHEAP eligibility requirements, which are a yearly income of $29,791.32 or less for an individual and $38,957.88 or less for a couple.
A 2008 AARP survey of people age 45 and over found that nearly 75 percent reported a rise in their home heating and cooling costs over the last year. Due to these increases in home energy costs, the survey found that many Americans are taking measures to protect their pocketbooks.
The survey found:
- 81 percent are turning the thermostat up or down.
- Nearly three quarters (73%) are trying to use less energy in the home.
- 63 percent are modifying their homes to be more energy efficient.
- Nearly half (46%) are heating/cooling only certain parts of their homes.
- More than half (57%) anticipate spending less during the holiday season.
- 29 percent are spending less on back-to-school shopping.
To learn more about LIHEAP or to apply for help, visit the California Department of Community Services & Development website or call toll-free at 1-866-675-6623.
If you don’t qualify for LIHEAP but are still having trouble paying your energy bills, consider contacting your utility company directly. It may come as a surprise, but disconnection of services is one of the last things they want to do. Be prepared to discuss things like your age, financial history and medical situation. They may be able to offer you a flexible payment plan or direct you to a nonprofit or government agency that can assist you,
No one is immune from the high cost of energy these days. For tips on how you can help your friends and family save on utilities, also be sure to check out the AARP Create The Good Operation Energy Save Toolkit.