Summer and hot temperatures are here and that can mean a significant increase in your air conditioning and overall electricity costs. With kids out of school, families will be spending more time inside meaning that keeping a safe and healthy home is a necessity. Rising costs often put a strain on the family budget, causing worry and stress for many families. If this is true for you this year, consider learning more about LIHEAP. LIHEAP, or your states equivalent program, has helped many lower income families stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer without losing sleep over the expensive utility bills.
LIHEAP or The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is designed to assist low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs. The program also has additional services like home weatherization. The goal of LIHEAP is to help low income families manage and meet their immediate home heating needs.
What You Need to Know Before You Apply
Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on factors such as income and household size. Your annual household income must be at or below the following amounts:
|Household Size*||Maximum Income Level (Per Year)|
Families who are interested in LIHEAP and already participate in programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) may be eligible automatically. If your income meets the above standards (150% of the poverty level) you will be considered eligible for LIHEAP. However, each state makes its own income eligibility guidelines and may accept individuals who make more. For example, Vermont has set their income guidelines at 185% of the poverty level. Make sure and check your state’s income guidelines before applying.
In addition to income eligibility, if you can answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you may be eligible for LIHEAP:
- Have you received a disconnect notice from your utility company?
- Do you need help paying your utility bill?
- Will home energy efficiency upgrades help lower your monthly utility bill?
If you’ve answered “yes”, you may very well be a candidate.
Navigating the Application Process
Each state has their own LIHEAP program, so the requirements may be slightly different. The deadlines to apply will also vary from state to state. For example, North Dakota’s deadline to apply is May 31st. Some states, like New Jersey, have extended deadlines when weather has been harsher than expected. Some states may have online applications, some may have paper. One requirement is the same regardless of location and that is the fact that you MUST have the following information:
Proof of income
Proof of residence
Current and past utility bills
The first step in applying is knowing the requirements for your state. It is also crucial to fill out each question on the application form. Applications ARE rejected when information is left out, or not filled in correctly.
Understanding Your LIHEAP Benefits
Once your application has been approved you can expect a wide variety of benefits. LIHEAP benefits range from hundreds of dollars to a thousand dollars. Benefits vary due to income variation, household size, and state of residence. Your benefit will rarely cover the full cost of heating or cooling a home, but most programs due provide assistance with paying current bills or past due amounts.
Here is a brief summary of the benefits offered by LIHEAP:
HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) – This program provides a one time payment that will offset eligible households heating costs.
ECIP (Energy Crisis Intervention Program) – Low income households who are faced with a crisis situation may qualify for this program. Examples include a household that may have received an imminent disconnect notice (24-48 hours) or one who is facing an energy related crisis or life threatening emergency.
LIHEAP Weatherization – This program provides free energy efficiency upgrades to low income households. The goal is to help families lower their monthly utility bills and to improve the health and safety of the occupants in the household.
LIHEAP Additional Services – In addition to the above services, LIHEAP also offers education on basic energy efficiency practices, instruction on how to use and maintain installed weatherization measures, energy budget counseling and more.
LIHEAP benefits must be reapplied for each year. They do not automatically renew.
Additional Ways to Cut Utility Costs
In addition to receiving LIHEAP benefits, you may want to consider other measures to help save money on your utility costs. The following tips have been known to reduce the cost of energy in many homes.
Turn off big devices like your computer, each night.
Use power strips for items like your TV, blu ray player, and video games. At night turn off the power strip.
Is your heat set higher than 68 degrees? If so, turn your thermostat down a degree or two each day until you reach between 68-70 degrees. This temp is ideal for your heat. By turning it down a degree or two each day you won’t notice the big temperature shift.
As you replace your appliances and light bulbs switch them with more energy efficient ones.
Try and use your oven only once a day. If you have baking to do, do it after dinner or before. This way your oven is still warm, and it doesn’t have to be preheated.
Turn your hot water heater down to 120 degrees. It costs money to heat up your water, so the lower the temperature, the more money saved.
If the thought of colder weather has you stressed, consider applying for LIHEAP. LIHEAP can provide your household with assistance, provided you meet the eligibility requirements.
To contact or apply for LIHEAP please use the following information:
NEAR (National Energy Assistance Referral Project)
NEAR is a free service that provides you with the information you need to apply for LIHEAP