The Home Energy Assistance Program

by Jeannie Knudson ; Updated July 27, 2017

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps low-income households with heating and cooling costs. The program operates throughout the United States through yearly grants funded by the Federal Government. In addition to heating and cooling assistance, LIHEAP offers home weatherization assistance and emergency assistance for households facing utility disconnection due to nonpayment. Apply for benefits through your Department of Social Services, or call the National Energy Assistance Referral project at 866-674-6327 for more information.

How It Works

Once approved, a household receives a letter detailing benefit amounts based on family size, utility costs and income. The local LIHEAP agency also notifies utilities providers of the benefit amounts. In some areas, gas and electric companies notified of a household's enrollment in an energy assistance plan cannot disconnect utilities for nonpayment during the winter months. Additionally, the program assists households currently disconnected from heating or cooling utilities with reconnection. LIHEAP pays energy providers directly during the regular billing cycle until the funds are depleted. Eligible families may qualify for free or low-cost energy-related home repairs or other weatherization services.

Income Limits

While the Federal Government determines maximum LIHEAP income requirements based on annual Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG), states may establish lower or higher income limits depending on the state's median income. As of 2010, individuals may qualify for energy assistance if the household income does not exceed 150 percent of the FPG or 60 percent of the state's median income. Regardless of the median income, states cannot establish income limits lower than 110 percent of the FPG. Individuals receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps and other eligible government benefits are automatically eligible for LIHEAP assistance.

Required Documents

Applicants must provide proof of income and residency, identification for all household members, copies of Social Security cards, verification of United States citizenship or qualifying alien status, and recent utility or heating bills. Utility bills are required to estimate average heating and cooling costs for benefit determination and to set up payments with energy providers.

Considerations

Except for emergency services, funds may be limited in some areas. Households with children or with elderly and disabled members receive priority treatment, followed by households with high energy needs and low income. States set aside emergency funds for households facing disconnection, but individuals are encouraged to apply early for monthly assistance. Depending on state policy, some areas may provide cooling assistance and heating assistance separately.

About the Author

Jeannie Knudson is an avid traveler with a love for the written word. She has been a freelance writer for over 15 years and holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from the University of Northern Iowa. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences on eHow and Travels.com.