Energy costs can easily take a huge chunk out of your monthly finances, leaving low-income families with less-than-sufficient funds to work with in terms of putting food on the table and covering other expenses.
Everything costs money, and necessities shouldn’t become unavailable to Americans simply because other expenses are too great to be able to afford the things they need to survive.
Thankfully, the federal government knows the weight of the burden that energy bills place on low-income American households, and with the power of programs like LIHEAP, this issue may finally be solved.
Of course, there are other programs that focus on offsetting some of the costs low-income families have to deal with, but we’ll be focusing on how to lower your energy bills as well as what you can do to benefit from government assistance, essentially reducing the amount you’ll be paying for utilities.
How does it work
While the program itself is administered on a federal level by the US Department of Health and Human Services, funds and resources are distributed to state and local-level agencies that will help eligible Americans deal with their utility costs.
This mainly refers to heating/cooling expenses and the improvement of the efficacy of these systems installed in American homes.
Some agencies will offer assistance in the form of direct payments to the utility company, reducing your energy bill by a set amount, whereas others will offer to do certain repairs on your home that may make it more energy efficient in the future.
One solution is a to-the-point and direct response to the growing energy costs whereas the other works more as a long-term relief for eligible households.
Even though the program itself isn’t designed to specifically help senior Americans, data shows that they’re the most common beneficiaries of LIHEAP.
Despite LIHEAP being a federal program, each state will determine the eligibility criteria separately, although there are some general guidelines that are universal no matter where you’re applying.
There is never an age requirement for LIHEAP, but you should remember that households with members above the age of 60 are pushed to the front of the queue, with their financial limits also being slightly higher than those of households with no senior members.
On top of this, assistance isn’t exclusive to US residents, and is also available to qualifying aliens, so long as they meet the income and asset criteria imposed by the state agency administering the program.
In order to qualify for LIHEAP benefits, your net income must be at or below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, with some states using 60% of the median income as the maximum in order to qualify for assistance.
Other things to keep in mind
Even if you may qualify for benefits on account of your income and asset levels, you should first make sure that your utility company is participating in the program.
The best way to find out is to make a direct call to your utility provider and confirm whether you can receive LIHEAP benefits in order to reduce utility costs.
When applying, make sure to denote your utility company along with all your private information, including any recent copies of your utility bills as well as a certified proof of income as a means of determining whether you qualify for LIHEAP benefits.
Before starting the application process, you should also collect the social security numbers of all the members of your household as well as any proof of residence they may have, ranging from birth certificate to school record, so long as it’s valid.
LIHEAP offers two types of benefits, based on the applicant’s circumstances, which can vary between regular benefits which are applied on a yearly basis and emergency benefits which are applied in the case of applicants at risk of being cut off from their utilities.
This also applies to those who are extremely low on fuel or have been recently impacted by a natural disaster, and applications for emergency benefits are approved within the first 48 hours.
Some other benefits are also available in select states, such as an additional 20% off for any elderly individual who is currently receiving SSI, which then qualifies them for Special Reduced Residential Service Rate Program benefits.
Other states will provide weatherization services to homes, giving them access to affordable or free insulation, repairs, and replacement of heating/cooling systems in their home.
In these states, qualifying for LIHEAP automatically qualifies a household for WAP as well.
Utility costs can quickly pile on and become a major issue for a low-income household.
In the summer heat, keeping your cooling systems on all day can ramp up your electricity bill to incredible heights, making it into a situation where a family is forced to choose between keeping the lights on or putting food on the table.
No American family should have to go through this dilemma, and LIHEAP is here to make sure no such thing happens.