By Jeannie Chaffin, Office of Community Services Director
While many welcome the change of seasons that ushers in cooler weather and the holiday season, many families across the country worry about the drop in temperatures and rise of home energy costs that await them in the coming days.
Heating oil and electricity prices have experienced increases over the last couple of years making it difficult for some households to stay afloat.
Thankfully, families working hard to make ends meet will get a little help with their heating and cooling bills, as HHS today released $2.9 billion to states, tribes and territories.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funded by HHS’ Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Community Services assists qualified families with their home energy needs, such as heating in the winter, cooling in the summer and insulating their homes to make them more energy efficient.
Some families face tough choices, like whether to buy groceries or pay the utility bill. Moreover, when households cannot afford adequate heating and cooling for a comfortable environment, they may be putting their health at risk by living in a too hot or too cold environment. Cold- and heat-related ailments can affect anyone, but certain populations, such as the frail, elderly, disabled, and young children, are more susceptible to the adverse health consequences that cold and heat stress can have on the body. More affordable home energy such as that offered through LIHEAP minimizes household budget trade-offs and influences the health and safety of the household.
To sign up for the program, most states require a government-issued ID, your most recent utility bill, proof of income and social security information for everyone in your home.
Individuals interested in applying for energy assistance should contact their state, territory or tribal LIHEAP agency.
Since 1981, LIHEAP has supported millions of families living on fixed incomes. The most recent available data shows that in FY 2010, LIHEAP assisted more than 900,000 households with cooling costs during the summer and an additional 7.4 million households with heat-related costs over the winter.
The majority of LIHEAP funds go to basic energy assistance through grants directly to households. States can spend up to 10 percent for administration and another 15 percent for weatherization efforts.
States even leverage private dollars to supplement their federal funds to increase access to energy assistance for families struggling each winter and summer.
The LIHEAP page features a state-by-state breakdown of funding.