LIHEAP DCL-2021-03 LIHEAP Flexibilities During Winter Storm

Publication Date: February 25, 2021

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Dear Colleague Letter

DCL#:                                LIHEAP-DCL-2021-03

DATE:                               February 25, 2021

TO:                                    Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) Grantees

SUBJECT:                         LIHEAP Flexibilities in the Wake of Recent Storms and Power Outages

ATTACHMENT(S):         N/A

Dear Colleagues,

The purpose of this letter is to remind Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grantees of the various flexibilities and resources available to support households impacted by the severe winter storms.

Use of LIHEAP Funding for Disaster Relief
When such natural disasters occur, funding from the LIHEAP may be used to assist LIHEAP eligible households with crisis assistance.  It is within each LIHEAP grantee’s discretion to determine what constitutes a qualifying disaster, what forms of financial and/or in-kind assistance to provide, and other related matters.  Under the LIHEAP regulations at 45 C.F.R. § 96.50(e), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will defer to grantees' interpretations of the LIHEAP statute "unless the interpretation is clearly erroneous."


Grantees may change their program benefits and assistance types throughout the Federal fiscal year to address unexpected natural disasters and other needs.  Grantees must submit a written plan amendment by letter to the Office of Community Services (OCS); however, such plan amendments do not need prior approval.  They may be sent within a reasonable time after the disaster and/or plan modification.

Allowable uses of LIHEAP funds to deal with crisis situations, particularly with respect to assistance for home energy related needs resulting from a natural disaster, include:

  • Costs to temporarily shelter or house individuals in hotels, apartments or other living situations in which homes have been destroyed or damaged, i.e., placing people in settings to preserve health and safety and to move them away from the crisis situation
  • Costs for transportation (such as cars, shuttles, buses) to move individuals away from the crisis area to shelters, when health and safety is endangered by loss of access to heating or cooling
  • Utility reconnection costs
  • Repair or replacement costs for furnaces and air conditioners
  • Insulation repair
  • Coats and blankets, as tangible benefits to keep individuals warm
  • Crisis payments for utilities and utility deposits
  • Purchase and installation of fans and air conditioners
  • Purchase and installation of generators


Unallowable uses of LIHEAP funds that are not home energy related include:

  • Payments for water/sewage (unless some of it is involved in overall weatherization, but paying water bills is generally not allowable)
  • Mortgage or rent assistance is not allowable, UNLESS these are necessary costs to shelter individuals from the crisis situation for a TEMPORARY period of time (see allowable uses)
  • Utility assistance for households housing displaced victims UNLESS the household is already low income and qualifies for LIHEAP assistance
  • Ramps and wheelchairs
  • School uniforms and school supplies
  • Clothing (except for coats)
  • Mattresses, cots, air beds and pillows


For additional information on administrative flexibilities during a disaster, see LIHEAP’s Disaster Relief FAQ. The LIHEAP Clearinghouse Visit disclaimer page “Publications” page also provides guidance on use of LIHEAP funding for disaster relief, including:


Technical Assistance Consultation

LIHEAP program analyst in the Division of Energy Assistance are available to states and tribes for technical assistance or questions regarding administrative flexibilities. If agencies encounter other barriers to responding to individuals and families with low incomes, aside from those included in this DCL, please feel empowered to reach out to your assigned LIHEAP program analyst Visit disclaimer page to arrange for consultation.


Hypothermia Safety Outreach
When the power is out, LIHEAP households are even more vulnerable to the effects of hypothermia due to excessive cold.  Seniors, young children, the disabled, and those with certain medical conditions are especially susceptible to the rapid effects on health caused by inadequate warming.  These populations feel the health effects quicker and with smaller changes in the temperature.  This is also especially true for those living in warmer or more temperate climates that face an unexpected cold wave that their bodies are not accustomed to.


OCS encourages grantees to conduct outreach to LIHEAP eligible and recipient households about the availability of shelters and warming centers, and general tips on how to prevent and recognize the effects of hypothermia.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extensive tips and information about extreme cold on their website, including: 

Information for workers on how to manage cold stress Visit disclaimer page can be found on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) webpage.

Generator Safety Outreach
OCS encourages grantees to conduct outreach to LIHEAP eligible and recipient households about the safe use of generators. If a grantee chooses to purchase generators to maintain power during and immediately after a disaster, such as for LIHEAP intake operations, for warming center operations, or to provide directly to LIHEAP households, OCS strongly recommends that safety guidance be provided along with the generators to avoid loss of life due to inappropriate operation of the generators.


For additional information on using generators safely, see the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s fact sheet, Using Portable Generators Safely Visit disclaimer page and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) fact sheet, Keep Your Family, Pets Safe When Using Generators Visit disclaimer page .


We hope this information is helpful to you. We have a shared interest in ensuring children and families have what they need during this difficult time and that communities are able to recover quickly. We wish you the best as you provide vital assistance during these disasters.


Thank you for your attention to these matters. OCS looks forward to continuing to provide high-quality services to OCS grantees.


Lauren Christopher
Director, Division of Energy Assistance
Office of Community Services


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