Low-Income Families Utility Bill Assistance
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During winter season, one of the common problems of individuals is the highest paying heating utilities. Many of the low-income earners reassure that heating during peak winter should be one of the household priorities. The energy consumption of a household may higher compare to the regular season, which reflect on their energy bill that encompasses about 30% of the low-income household monthly earning. Thus, it is struggling for the low-income earners during the midst of economic recession to pay all the inclining prices of the heating the cooling utilities.
However, the Federal government first established an energy assistance program in 1981 through a funding from congressional appropriations. This assistance was called the “Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)”. This program is under the department of U.S Health and Human Services. The aim of the program is for assisting low-income households who difficulties in paying their energy utilities. In Unites States, low-income is referred to families or individuals in the society that are earning a total less than the proposed poverty level of the federal. The eligibility of low-income earners can be determined through the total annual income and the total numbers of the working family members living in a household. The program is accessible in all U.S. States including the tribal organizations and other State territories like Guam, Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.
Understanding about LIHEAP
LIHEAP becomes the vital resources of the most in need individuals in the communities. These individuals are from the sector of the working poor, people with disabilities, senior citizen and families with young children who have difficulties in providing welfare. It is a state Block grant that covers to assist the needy constituents in providing heating and cooling assistance. According to Department of Health and Human Resource (HHE), there are around 8 million households who benefit from this program.
LIHEAP funding assistance targets those who are truly vulnerable. The allocation from the federal are distributed to different states and government agencies that will administer the program. The LIHEAP fund allocation may vary based on the state, local climate, economic situation and the demography. However, the federal has the authority for proving additional funds for LIHEAP during the emergency scenarios or the local government and other private entities will contribute for the additional funds.
In terms of the fund distribution, the local state can craft their own programs that embody the LIHEAP policies and mission through program grantee. From this, it will fit with their constituents' needs and could meet the expectation of the consumers. Generally, LIHEAP program has three major offers for the low-income families:
Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) provides single cash grants to pay the cost of the heating utility during winter season. This amount of the cash grant is based on the number of the family in a household, the income and the type of the fuel that the family used. Typically, an average family size of a low-income household can receive between $45 and $450.
Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP) provides crisis grants for those who are in danger of shutting off their heating utilities and running short of purchasing fuel. This emergency assistance may be requested 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. An eligible household could receive $800 during peak winter while $300 during summer season.
In Philadelphia, emergency situations that fall under the crisis grant include: Broken Heating Equipment or leaking lines of the heating utility that must be fixed or replaced immediately, Lack of Fuel, The heating source that use as the main sources is not properly working and suddenly shut-off. LIHEAP offers assistances and must authorize within 18 hours after the complete application for those Household who have no heating equipment. This is immediately implemented when there is life-threatening situation and medical emergency that in Danger without the fuel or when utility services were terminated.
Through LIHEAP Weatherization, it offers free energy efficiency upgrades for all eligible households that would be a great help to lesser the monthly cost of utilities while securing the safety of all the family members.
LIHEAP also offers counseling on the importance of energy budgeting and the basic practices on how to save energy, including the proper usage and maintenance of the energy equipmentAs part of the LIHEAP program, California State established a CSD’s Solar for All California pilot program which designed to promote energy efficiency by installing rooftop solar systems for more than 1,000 low-income families across California. This free of cost is an innovative long term solution of the State to help the household reduce their energy expense throughout the year.
How to Apply for LIHEAP
Check your eligibility. To make sure that you are eligible for the benefits, you must contact your local LIHEAP office. For more information, you may visit the acf.hhs.gov
For first time applicants, you can file directly in your local county assistance office. Other may also apply through online and can download directly the application.
Applicants must secure pertinent documents to qualify for the assistance, these requirements must include:
• The recent copies of your utility bills (energy).
• Proof of your current gross income as stated on the required income per year showing you are low-income earners.
• Documents form Social Security, unemployment insurance, pension funds, disability and others that may show your income.
• Submit a final utility termination notice (when you received a shut-down notice form utility providers).
• Proof of you current Address.
• Proof of total numbers of family living in the household.
• Social security cards of all household members.
• Proof that you are a U.S. citizenship or have a U.S. permanent residence.
Individuals who are also beneficiaries from other federal welfare assistance program such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), U.S. Veterans benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are may be automatically eligible to apply for energy assistance.