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LIHEAP Frequently Asked Questions for Consumers

Published: January 19, 2016
Audience:
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Category:
Guidance, Policies, Procedures, Q & As

LIHEAP Services

Finding Help

What is LIHEAP and how can LIHEAP help me?
What kinds of services does LIHEAP provide?
Does LIHEAP help pay for water and sewer bills?
Is there a way for me to tell the state what I think about how LIHEAP works in my area?
Will LIHEAP pay for my whole utility bill?
How can LIHEAP help me to lower my energy bills in the future?
Can LIHEAP help me fix my furnace or air conditioner?
What are the dangers of being unable to heat and cool my home?

How can I get help with my energy bills?
Can I submit my LIHEAP application online?
Can I send my LIHEAP application directly to the federal government?

Qualifying for LIHEAP

Resolving Problems

How do I know if I’m qualified for LIHEAP?
Do I qualify for LIHEAP if I already receive SNAP or TANF?
What is the most money I can make and still get LIHEAP benefits?
If I rent or live in subsidized or public housing, can I receive help from LIHEAP?

I applied for LIHEAP but was told that there wasn't any LIHEAP money left. What can I do?
Who do I talk to if I have a complaint about my local LIHEAP office?
Who do I talk to if I have a complaint about my utility company?
My local LIHEAP office says I don’t qualify for LIHEAP. I think they made a mistake. What can I do?
What do I do if I think someone is wrongly taking advantage of LIHEAP or breaking the rules?

 

LIHEAP SERVICES

What is LIHEAP and how can LIHEAP help me?

LIHEAP, which stands for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, is a federal program that helps low income households pay for heating or cooling their homes.  In most states, it also helps people make sure their homes are more energy efficient by paying for certain home improvements, known as weatherization.

Most states will use LIHEAP to help you pay for your energy bill for heating or cooling your home and offer additional help in cases of energy crisis. A number of States may also offer weatherization services.

What kinds of services does LIHEAP provide?

LIHEAP is designed differently in every state.  Depending on where you live, your local LIHEAP office may provide things like:

  • help paying your heating or cooling bills;
  • emergency services in cases of energy crisis, such as utility shutoffs; and
  • low-cost home improvements, known as weatherization, that make your home more energy efficient and lower your utility bills.

Does LIHEAP help pay for water and sewer bills?

No.  LIHEAP funds can only be used to help you pay to heat or cool your home.  Generally, LIHEAP funds may not be used to pay water and sewer bills. One exception is when water is used for air conditioning, such as in an evaporative cooler.  In this case, LIHEAP funds can be used to pay for water bills.

Is there a way for me to tell the state what I think about how LIHEAP works in my area?

Yes.  Each state, tribe, and territory that receives LIHEAP funds must offer an opportunity for the public to comment on the program’s design.  States hold public hearings and invite the public to participate, usually in the summer months.  Tribes and territories have more informal plans to gather public input. 

We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity and make suggestions regarding how LIHEAP is designed in your area. Get in touch with the state, territory, or tribe’s LIHEAP office To find out about the next opportunity to give feedback and input on LIHEAP.

Will LIHEAP pay for my whole utility bill?

Probably not.  LIHEAP is not meant to pay for all of your energy costs for the year, the season, or even the month.

In many places, you can get help only with your main heating source. For example, if you heat with gas, you might get help with your gas bill but not your electric bill.  Or you might get help with one bill or the other. 

The highest benefits go to those households that have the highest home energy costs or needs, taking into account income and family size. The amount of help that you get will depend on where you live (each grantee's payment levels are different), your income, your energy costs or needs, your family size, and possibly other factors.

Because of the way the LIHEAP funds are distributed, some states receive more LIHEAP funds than others, and are able to pay higher benefits.

It is unlikely that you will receive enough to pay your entire heating or cooling bill for the year, because LIHEAP is not designed to do that.

How can LIHEAP help me to lower my energy bills in the future?

LIHEAP grantees can spend a portion of their funds on low-cost energy related repairs for homes, but they are not required to do so.  These types of repairs and improvements are known as weatherization.

If they wish, they can use some of their funds to do things like:

  • fix leaky doors or windows;
  • install insulation; and
  • fix or replace broken or inefficient furnaces or air conditioners.

Sometimes, grantees will not weatherize rental homes or apartments unless the landlord agrees to pay for a portion of the cost or agrees to other conditions.

The U.S. Department of Energy runs a program called the Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program to weatherize homes or apartments of low income people.   You can find out more about this program on their website.

Can LIHEAP help me fix my furnace or air conditioner?

Yes.  LIHEAP grantees can use some of their funds to help fix broken or inefficient furnaces or air conditioners.  Not every state offers this type of help and those that do have different rules about who they will help

What are the dangers of being unable to heat and cool my home?

Adequate home heating and cooling are a necessity of life. If you can’t heat or cool your home properly, you can put your family at risk for health and safety problems. The elderly, disabled, and young children often feel a bigger impact from even small changes in indoor temperature.  You can find out more about these risks and how to avoid them on our website.

FINDING HELP

How can I get help with my energy bills?

You can get help paying your energy bills by contacting your local LIHEAP office.  Each state has different rules about when you can apply, how you apply, and the criteria you have to meet in order to get help.  Your best bet for information specific to you is to contact your local LIHEAP office.

There may be other programs operated by your local LIHEAP office, utility company, or other charities to help you pay your energy bill. Your local LIHEAP office may be able to direct you to other community resources.  You can also contact the National Energy Assistance Referral Hotline at (866) 674-6327, if you need help figuring out what is available in your community.

If you have trouble reaching someone at your local LIHEAP office, you can also contact the state’s LIHEAP office, which oversees all the local offices. 

Can I submit my LIHEAP application online?

It depends.  Many states make their applications available online, but not all accept online submissions.  The LIHEAP Clearinghouse has a list of state applications available online and shows you which states also have online portals to submit applications.

If you don’t see your state listed, you should get in touch with your local LIHEAP office to find out more about how to apply.

Can I send my LIHEAP application directly to the federal government?

No.  The federal government does not help you pay your energy bills directly.  We provide money to states, territories, and tribes and in turn those organizations set up their own rules and processes for getting LIHEAP.  We do not have LIHEAP application forms and we do not accept LIHEAP applications.

Unlike other federal programs, each State has its own form and rules for applying for energy assistance. You should contact your local LIHEAP office to find out details about what you need to do to apply for LIHEAP.  You can also learn about the rules for applying for LIHEAP in your state on the state’s website.  You can find a list of all the state LIHEAP agencies and their websites in our State Directory.

QUALIFYING FOR LIHEAP

How do I know if I’m qualified for LIHEAP?

You need to contact your local LIHEAP office to find out about the rules and requirements for receiving help from LIHEAP.

Being qualified for LIHEAP does not guarantee that you will receive help. This depends on how much LIHEAP funds are available for the year.  On average, about 20% of households that are qualified for LIHEAP receive benefits.  When LIHEAP funds run out for the year, no more benefits can be given out until more funds are made available by Congress.

Do I qualify for LIHEAP if I already receive SNAP or TANF?

LIHEAP grantees have the option to automatically qualify any household that receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income, or certain types of veteran’s benefits. Not all grantees choose to do this.  And those that do may still require you to fill out an application.  Check with your local LIHEAP office to find out if you qualify.

What is the most money I can make and still get LIHEAP benefits?

Each LIHEAP grantee sets its own income limits.  So the most you can make and still receive LIHEAP benefits depends on where you live and how many people live in your home.  Some areas may also have other requirements for receiving LIHEAP benefits. You will need to contact your local LIHEAP office to learn about income limits and other eligibility criteria.

If I rent or live in subsidized or public housing, can I receive help from LIHEAP?

Renters are eligible for LIHEAP assistance. Many renters pay for their energy costs directly, while others pay these costs indirectly, through their rent. In either case, you are eligible for LIHEAP if you otherwise qualify.

If you live in subsidized or public housing, you may be ineligible for LIHEAP assistance depending on where you live and how you pay for your utilities.  For information specific to your particular situation, contact your local LIHEAP office

RESOLVING PROBLEMS

I applied for LIHEAP but was told that there wasn't any LIHEAP money left. What can I do?

Quite often, states, tribes, and territories run out of LIHEAP money before they have served everyone that is eligible. You should contact your local LIHEAP office to find out if LIHEAP benefits may be available later. For example, sometimes an energy crisis program opens up after the regular heating or cooling assistance program is closed.

You should also ask your local LIHEAP office, your local community action agency, or your utility company if there is help available from other sources, such as other federal programs, state programs, local organizations, or private "fuel funds."

Who do I talk to if I have a complaint about my local LIHEAP office?

We encourage you first to contact the state, territory, or tribe’s main LIHEAP office to investigate your complaint.  If you are not happy with the outcome and you believe the LIHEAP grantee is violating federal law, you have the option to file a formal complaint with our office.  Resolving such a complaint can take several months because of mandatory timeframes for review of your complaint.

Contact our office for more information on how to file a formal complaint.  If you’re having a hard time reaching someone at the state, territory, or tribe’s main LIHEAP office, we can also help you reach the right people to have your issues heard.

Who do I talk to if I have a complaint about my utility company?

Our office is not the right place to file a complaint against a utility company. We do not have any say over how utility companies do business.  Get in touch with your state's public utility commission to find out how to file a complaint.

My local LIHEAP office says I don’t qualify for LIHEAP.  I think they made a mistake.  What can I do?

You have the right to appeal any decision made by your local LIHEAP office.  The appeal process is typically outlined in the denial notice that you received.  If you didn’t receive a denial notice or the notice you received doesn’t explain the appeals process, contact the state, territory, or tribe’s main LIHEAP office.  They can explain the appeals process to you. 

If you’ve tried contacting the main LIHEAP office and you still need help, contact our office

What do I do if I think someone is wrongly taking advantage of LIHEAP or breaking the rules?

The state, territory, or tribe’s main LIHEAP office should have a process for reporting cases of fraud, waster, and abuse.  If you don’t feel comfortable calling that office or if you want to report something suspicious happening at the main LIHEAP office, we have an anonymous Fraud Hotline.   You can call the hotline at (800) HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477) or submit a report online.  You can also fax or mail your complaint, or call a TTY number if you are hearing impaired.  That information is on the Fraud Hotline website.

 

 

 

 

Last Reviewed: January 20, 2016