Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program Provides Help for Struggling Families
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program established in 1981 and funded annually by Congress. These federal dollars are released directly to states, territories, tribes and the District of Columbia who use the funds to provide energy assistance to low-income households. LIHEAP offers financial assistance to qualifying low-income households to help them pay their home heating or cooling bills. Under federal law, a household must have income below either 150 percent of the federal poverty level or 60 percent of state median income level, whichever is higher. However, states can set lower income thresholds if they choose to. Some states use non-federal funds to expand their programs to include more households or to provide higher benefits.
LIHEAP provides important help to families struggling to make ends meet. LIHEAP assistance can help a household avoid having its utilities shut off or can help a household reestablish service after a disruption. LIHEAP also can help pay ongoing heating and cooling costs, assisting families who may have a hard time paying utility bills and meeting other basic household expenses such as food, prescriptions, rent, or child care. In addition, LIHEAP helps some households by weatherizing their homes, making them more energy efficient.
FY 2013 Allocations under the Current Continuing Resolution
HHS is making available a total of $3.068 billion in FY 2013 LIHEAP block grant funds under the current Continuing Resolution (CR), which runs through March 27, 2013. This represents 90 percent of the full year funds for states, tribes and territories -- a higher proportion than is typically made available in the initial allocation. This gives States more certainty to plan for their upcoming heating season while allowing Congress flexibility in setting its final funding level for the program, as required by the CR.
Allocations under the LIHEAP Statute
The formulas for distributing LIHEAP are set by Congress. The law requires that funds be distributed taking into consideration the states’ current and historic shares of home energy expenditures by low-income households. The factors that are incorporated in the formula include changes in temperature, fuel source, prices, and the number of low-income households in each state. Each year, these factors are determined based on recent data available and, thus, a state’s share of funding can change modestly from year to year. (For more information on how the funding is allocated under the statute, when there is not a Continuing Resolution, please refer to this Information Memorandum.)
Information about LIHEAP and where to apply
Applicants can call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) project. NEAR is a free service providing information on where you can apply for LIHEAP. ACF funds the NEAR hotline through the LIHEAP Clearinghouse which is under contract to the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). Applicants can: