< Back to Search

LIHEAP Q & As for Consumers

Published: July 9, 2012
Audience:
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Category:
Guidance, Policies, Procedures, Q & As

 

FINDING HELP

Where can I apply for help with my utility or fuel bills? How can I locate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) program where I live?

We do not maintain local energy assistance information at the Federal level. Please contact the agency that administers the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in your State. You can find that information through our LIHEAP State Directory at:  http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory....

Each Directory includes: LIHEAP coordinator's name, address, and telephone number, and if available:

  • the LIHEAP program's e-mail address,
  • public inquiry telephone numbers, many of which are in-state, toll-free telephone numbers, and

LIHEAP grantee web sites. In most states, the program is administered locally by Departments of Social Services and/or nonprofit organizations such as Community Action Agencies and Area Agencies on Aging.

Your LIHEAP agency also may be able to direct you to other community resources for which you might qualify for help with your home energy bills. If you are a Tribal member, but your Tribe or Tribal organization is not on the list, it means that you should apply to the state program for help.

Where can I apply for help from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)? How do I get in touch with someone to find out if I'm eligible?

You will need to check with your State LIHEAP office. We have a directory of State LIHEAP agencies on our web site. After clicking on the page below, click on the name of your State to find out who to contact. Please go to the state directory at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory.

Do you know of any State that accepts applications for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) through the Internet?

Each State decides whether it can make available LIHEAP applications through the Internet. There is no Federal requirement for a State to do so. We do support State efforts to overcome barriers for the public to apply for assistance.

Almost 20 States make available their LIHEAP applications through the Internet. Some of these States allow for downloading of the LIHEAP applications. Other States provide for LIHEAP applications to be completed online for certain types of households.

What is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)? What does LIHEAP do?

LIHEAP is a Federal program that helps low income households pay for heating and/or cooling their homes.

In particular, LIHEAP seeks to make home energy more affordable for two groups of low income households that have the highest home energy needs:

  • vulnerable households which include frail older individuals, individuals with disabilities, and very young children. These households face serious health risks if they do not have adequate heating or cooling in their homes.
  • high energy burden households which include those households with the lowest incomes and highest home energy costs. These households face safety risks in trying to heat or cool their homes if they cannot pay their heating or cooling fuel bills.

Consequently, households with the highest home energy needs are more likely to face health and safety risks. For more information, you may wish to visit this site: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/resource/indoor-health-and....

What is the Federal energy assistance program called? How do I find, locate the local energy assistance program in the phone book?

The program may or may not be called "LIHEAP" or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. In a number of States, it is called HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program). Other States use other variations of the federal program name or a completely different name.

To find the name of your state's energy assistance program, click on the name of your State when you go our Directory of State LIHEAP agencies at:  http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory...

In most States, there is a heating or cooling assistance and home energy crisis assistance, which also may have different program names. A number of States may also offer weatherization services.

In addition, there may be other programs operated by your LIHEAP agency, local utility company, or local charity to help pay for your home heating and/or cooling costs. Your LIHEAP grantee also may be able to direct you to other community resources for which you might qualify for help with your home energy bills.

If you are a tribal member, go to our Directory of Tribal LIHEAP agencies at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-tribal-contact-list...

If your Tribe or Tribal organization is not listed in the Directory, you should apply to the state program for help.

Does the Federal government provide funds directly to families? Do I apply to the Federal government directly to receive assistance?

The Federal government does not provide energy assistance directly to the public. We provide money to our LIHEAP grantees: States, Indian tribes, and Insular Areas. We do not have forms for applying for LIHEAP assistance. We do not take applications for LIHEAP assistance.

Unlike some Federal programs, each State has its own form and procedures for applying for energy assistance. Our Federal website has a directory of state LIHEAP agencies. After clicking on the page below, click on the name of your state to find out who to contact. Please go to the State LIHEAP Directory at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory...

You may also see listed for your State its energy assistance web site. Visit the State's web site which may have your State's application on-line.

 

PROGRAM INFORMATION

What kind of help or assistance is available through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)?

Depending on where you live, LIHEAP may offer one or more of the following types of help:

  • heating or cooling funds (i.e., fuel subsidies) to increase the affordability of home energy;
  • energy crisis intervention to assist weather-related and fuel supply shortages and other household energy-related emergencies, such as utility shutoffs;
  • low-cost residential weatherization and other energy-related home repairs to safely increase the efficiency of a household's use of home energy, thus lowering home energy bills and making homes more comfortable.

Does the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) help pay for water and sewer utility bills? Can LIHEAP assist with any other utility costs?

LIHEAP funds can be used to help with electric and natural gas utility bills.

Generally, LIHEAP funds may not be used to pay water bills. One exception is when water is used for air conditioning, such as in an evaporative cooler that is used in hot, dry climates. LIHEAP grantee agencies may decide to authorize the use of LIHEAP help for water bills in such cases, but are not required to do so.

Can the public comment on the design of its State's LIHEAP program concerning eligibility, benefit levels, opening and closing dates, etc.?

Yes, the public can comment. Under Federal guidelines, LIHEAP grantees must have a public participation process in place each year. This would involve soliciting the public's input into the development of the following year's LIHEAP program. This includes a requirement for States and insular areas to hold public hearings.

By taking advantage of the LIHEAP grantee's public participation process, one can make suggestions regarding a grantee's design of its LIHEAP program. A person interested in providing input should contact the grantee's LIHEAP program for information about its public participation process.

How much of my utility or home fuel bill will the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) pay?

LIHEAP is not intended to cover a household's residential energy costs.

LIHEAP is limited to help eligible households in paying their home heating and/or cooling cost. In some cases, such costs include hot water heating, refrigeration, or cooking. It does not include electricity for other uses such as lighting.

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

Because of the way the LIHEAP funds are distributed, some grantee agencies 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.

For more information, contact you State LIHEAP agency at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory...

Can LIHEAP help me with weatherizing my home? How about fixing my furnace or air conditioner?

(LIHEAP grantees can spend a portion of their funds on weatherization or low-cost energy related repairs for homes, but they are not required to do so.

If they wish, they can use some of their funds to do such things as fix leaky doors or windows, install insulation, or repair/replace defective 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 (DOE) also administers a program called the Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program (LIWAP) to weatherize homes or apartments of low income people. This program is usually run at the local level by Community Action Agencies. You may wish to contact your local Community Action Agency to find out if you qualify for help under this program. You can find out more about this program at DOE's LIWAP website: http://www.eere.energy.gov/weatherization/.

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

Adequate home heating and cooling are a necessity of life. The inability to heat or cool one's home can put household members at risk for health and safety problems. Additional information on these risks and consumer information is available at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/resource/indoor-health-and...

To whom do I send a contribution to assist low income households through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)? I want to help others, who do I contact? How can I provide funds to help others?

We appreciate anyone's concern for the well-being of others. However, LIHEAP is a Federal program, and is not authorized to accept donations. Any funds that are donated would have to be turned over to the U.S. Treasury to be used for general purposes.

You may wish to donate funds to your LIHEAP grantee agency (provided that the grantee is authorized to accept donations) or to a private fuel fund that helps people pay their home energy bills. For example, many utilities will accept donations from its customers to be used to help low income households with their heating and cooling needs.

Do I qualify for assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) if already receive Food Stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families?

LIHEAP grantees have the option to automatically qualify any household that receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Food Stamps, or certain needs-tested Veterans benefits. However, they are not required to do so.

Check with your State LIHEAP office to determine if you qualify.

You can find a listing of State LIHEAP agencies at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory...

How much money, income or wages for I need to qualify to help with my home energy bills?

Each State has its own income limits for Federal energy assistance. Thus, the amount of income needed to qualify for assistance will depend on which State you live in. States may also have additional requirements for qualifying for Federal energy assistance. You will need to contact your State's energy assistance office to learn about income limits and other eligibility requirements.

Information on how to contact your State's energy assistance office is available from our LIHEAP Directory at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory...

Also, our LIHEAP Clearinghouse has information on each State's income limits under "State Low-Income Energy Profiles" at: http://www.liheap.ncat.org.

What income is included when determining eligible income for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)?

Each State considers a household's total income. Decisions about what will be counted as income under the State's LIHEAP program, as well as the time period used for counting that income, are left to the State.

States generally count household income in one of the following ways:

  • Net income (household income after taking out certain deductions) may be used. Deductions could include such things as certain types of income, (such as disability income), or certain costs (such as high shelter or medical costs).
  • Gross household income (household income without taking out any deductions) may be used.

If I rent or live in subsidized or public housing, can I receive assistance from the Low Income Home Assistance Program (LIHEAP)?

Renters are eligible for LIHEAP assistance. Many renters pay for their heating and/or cooling costs directly, while others pay these costs indirectly through their rent. In either case, you are eligible for LIHEAP help if you otherwise qualify.

If you live in subsidized or public housing, you may be ineligible for LIHEAP assistance if heating and/or cooling and other utilities are included in your rent.

If you live in subsidized or public housing, you may be eligible for LIHEAP assistance if you must pay for heating and/or cooling and utilities yourself.

If you live in subsidized or public housing and (1) you are responsible for paying for heating and/or cooling and utilities and (2) receive a housing subsidy for all or part of your energy costs, the housing subsidy will most likely affect the size of your LIHEAP benefit.

For more information, contact your State LIHEAP agency at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory...

 

QUALIFYING FOR HELP

Do I qualify for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)? If I do qualify, does this guarantee that I will receive assistance?

You need to contact your State's LIHEAP agency to find out about the qualifications needed to be eligible for LIHEAP assistance, where one can apply for assistance, and whether such assistance is currently available.

Please go to: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory... to locate your State's LIHEAP agency to answer your questions.

Being eligible for LIHEAP assistance does not guarantee that you will receive the assistance. This is depends on how much Federal LIHEAP funds are available for the year. When the LIHEAP funds are exhausted, LIHEAP grantees can no longer provide Federal help until Congress provides funds for the next Federal Fiscal Year which begins on October 1st of each year.

What if my household income increases after I received assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)?

Recognizing that there are changes in employment and financial status, you are not under any obligation to inform your State about the recent increase in your household income. However, you would be obliged to inform your State about the additional income if your State has already notified you that you could expect additional LIHEAP benefits this year. The State may consider the additional household income when deciding your eligibility for any future LIHEAP assistance.

If you still have concerns, we suggest you contact your State directly to learn more about its policies with respect to income verification. You can locate your State's LIHEAP office at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory...

Can the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) help military members or other citizens stationed overseas with their home energy bills?

(LIHEAP is not designed specifically to help U.S. citizens living overseas with their heating and cooling bills. Federal law does not prohibit LIHEAP grantees from providing LIHEAP help to its citizens living overseas, although we do not know of any LIHEAP grantees which do so.

To find out for sure, you can contact the LIHEAP coordinator where you have established residency stateside using our State LIHEAP Directory by going to: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory...

 

RESOLVING COMPLAINTS

I applied for help with my electric, gas, or oil bill. However, I was told that there wasn't any Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (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 the office that runs LIHEAP 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 can find a listing of State LIHEAP agencies at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory....  You should also ask the 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."

Can I contact your office if I have a complaint about the operation of my local agency's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)?

We would encourage you first to contact your LIHEAP grantee to investigate your complaint. We have a directory of state LIHEAP agencies on our web site. After clicking on the page below, click on the name of your state to find out who to contact. Please go to our State LIHEAP Directory at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory...

Generally, we cannot change a LIHEAP agency's determination. We simply refer the question to the LIHEAP grantee.

If you are not satisfied with the resolution of your concerns and you believe the LIHEAP grantee is violating federal law, we can then provide you with information on how to initiate a Federal LIHEAP complaint. However, resolving such a complaint can take several months because the law specifies the process and timeframes, and directs us to send the complaint to the LIHEAP grantee for review.

However, if you think you might be eligible for LIHEAP, it is possible that our office could informally assist with your situation.

Can I contact your Federal office if I have complaint about my utility company? Do you handle utility company complaints?

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) program would not be the appropriate place to file a complaint against a utility company. Such a complaint would need to be filed with your State's public utility commission which can be located at http://www.naruc.org.

What can I do if I disagree with my Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grantee's decision that I am not eligible to receive LIHEAP help or if I believe that I should receive a larger benefit?

You can request the LIHEAP agency to offer you an opportunity for a fair hearing, as required by law.

At such a hearing, a neutral party will hear arguments from both the LIHEAP agency and you. Based on the facts of the case, the neutral party will issue a hearing decision that may or may not be in your favor.

In addition, LIHEAP grantees are required to announce and hold public hearings to obtain public input into the development of each year's LIHEAP program. We invite you to use the public participation process as an opportunity for you to comment on the way the grantee operates its LIHEAP program. You can suggest the kinds of changes you would like to see in the program.