The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, commonly known as LIHEAP, helps needy families to pay for their household’s various energy expenses. This includes heating and cooling expenses, weatherization costs and necessary home repairs. While beneficiaries of other government programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) may automatically qualify for these benefits, applicants with young children and elderly or disabled household members are even more likely to qualify for this type of government assistance.
During the 2019 fiscal year, the LIHEAP Utility Assistance Block Grant funded a total award amount of $3.69 billion, a slight increase from the $3.64 billion awarded in 2018. To qualify for this program, families must be financially-needy and meet income restrictions based on the size of their household. Read on to learn more about the eligibility requirements that beneficiaries must meet in order to participate in the program.
What is LIHEAP?
LIHEAP energy assistance is a federally-funded program that helps low-income households afford their home’s heating expenses in the winter, and cooling costs in the summer. Like many other types of federal assistance, specific rules and application procedures for this program vary by state. This includes income restrictions and benefit amounts.
In some states, this utility assistance program may help qualifying claimants pay for their household’s additional energy-related expenses as well. This includes needs like chimney and furnace cleaning. Overall, needy families can receive financial assistance through this federal program for the following:
- Heating and cooling expenses
- Energy emergencies, such as utility shut-offs
- Low-cost energy-related home repairs and replacements
- Home weatherization and energy efficiency
- Furnace and air conditioning repairs
Typically, LIHEAP beneficiaries who meet categorical eligibility requirements automatically qualify for other assistance programs as well. Categorical eligibility pertains to those who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), TANF, Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) and certain veteran’s benefits.
Note: This program can benefit homeowners as well as renters. However, renters may need to provide additional financial information if their utilities are included in the rent.
LIHEAP Income Guidelines and Other Eligibility Requirements
To participate in this utility assistance program, applicants must demonstrate sufficient financial need. This means their household’s annual income falls below a designated limit for that state. For instance, the income limit for a family of four may be around $36,450. In comparison, the maximum income limit may reach around $61,335 for a family of eight.
These income restrictions vary widely depending on the state in which claimants reside. Some states base their limits on monthly income, while others are based on annual income. Therefore, applicants must contact their particular state’s LIHEAP office to obtain the most accurate eligibility information. This helps them to determine whether they qualify for these benefits or not. In certain states, you can access a prescreening tool for additional clarification.
For instance, in the state of North Dakota LIHEAP income limits are slightly higher than those listed above. For a family of four in North Dakota, households must earn an annual income of no more than $55,444 in order to qualify for assistance.
What is the LIHEAP application process?
To apply for LIHEAP benefits, claimants must contact their state’s LIHEAP office for additional information about enrolling in the program, including the state-specific eligibility requirements they must meet in order to participate. When applying for assistance, claimants typically need to provide the following as evidence of their eligibility:
- Photo identification
- Proof of state residency
- Recent proof of the household’s total gross income from the previous 30 days
- A recent utility bill or termination notice
- A recent heating fuel bill
In addition to this information, LIHEAP applicants must provide their name, contact information, Social Security Number and mailing address when applying for benefits. They must also provide information about their household’s living arrangements, including their relation to each household member.
While some states accept applications online, most do not. Some states that currently accept LIHEAP applications online include Kansas, Maryland and Mississippi. If claimants cannot apply for benefits online in the state where they live, they must do so in person. Alternately, they may also be able to submit their application by mail.
Processing can take up to 30 days. If you receive a notice of approval, most states issue your benefits in one payment. Keep in mind that you can only apply for LIHEAP once per year. Each state establishes a window during which the office accepts applications for the year. If you previously received benefits from this program, you may receive a notification when this application window reopens.
Note: If LIHEAP applicants wish to obtain application assistance, they may call 1-866-674-6327 Monday through Friday during business hours.
LIHEAP Benefit Limits
The amount of LIHEAP benefits you can expect to receive depends on several factors. In addition to determining your eligibility, your income plays a role in determining your benefit amount. Other aspects considered include:
- The annual costs to heat and cool your home.
- The state or county you apply in.
- The type of assistance you need.
Each state LIHEAP office publishes its own minimum and maximum benefit amounts for heating, cooling and crisis periods. Therefore, you may receive more benefits during the summer than you would in the winter, or vice versa.
LIHEAP Application Denials and Appeals
If applicants apply for LIHEAP assistance but receive a letter of denial, there is an appeals process. Like with many other government assistance programs, applicants may choose to file an appeal if they disagree with the decision on their application. In order to begin the process, claimants must refer to their denial notice. This notice provides specific instructions about the process of filing an appeal in their state.
Are other energy assistance programs available?
In addition to LIHEAP, low-income families may qualify for other types of assistance. Many utility companies and local non-profit organizations can help needy households to pay their energy bills. To learn about the different types of assistance programs that may be available in their area of residence, claimants may contact the National Energy Assistance Referral Hotline at 866-674-6327.