Need help staying warm in the winter months?
Winter is on its way—and so are rising heating costs. Many families struggle with trying to stay warm during the colder winter months, but there is help. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP, or just HEAP, for short).
What is LIHEAP?
LIHEAP is a federal program that assists eligible low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs; and, depending on what state you live in, it may even help you weatherize your home. HEAP can be used for electricity or propane, or even for purchasing firewood. State-by-state specifics are available at the Office of Community Services website.
Do I qualify?
To qualify, you must have an annual household income (before taxes) that is below the following amounts for each household size:
- One person: $17,655
- Two people: $23,895
- Three people: $30,135
- Four people: $36,375
- Five people: $42,615
- Six people: $48,855
- Seven people: $55,095
- Eight people: $61,335
For households with more than eight people, add $6,240 per additional person.
If you or someone in your family already receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, or certain income-based veteran benefits, then you are automatically eligible for LIHEAP.
When do I apply?
Typically, the LIHEAP season runs from November through April. There may be slight differences among states, so be sure to check with your state agency for exact eligibility dates. LIHEAP benefits are paid on a first-come, first-served basis, so you do not want to miss the eligibility period.
What do I need to bring?
You should gather the following documents to make your appointment as quick and painless as possible:
- Pay stubs from the past 90 days.
- A Social Security number for each family member.
- A copy of your most current heating or electric bill.
What else can I do while I wait for my benefits?
Many utility companies have a fund put aside to assist low-income families with their utility bills. They are not going to advertise this, but be sure to call and ask about it. For example, Central Hudson in New York has a “Good Neighbor Fund” that is a last resort for families that are struggling to pay their bills. You can also request that you be placed on a budget plan. A budget plan will help control your monthly bill, but it is extremely important to not fall behind if you are on a budget plan. The utility company can then suspend your budget plan and charge you for back usage, resulting in bills that will often be in the range of several thousand dollars!
Staying warm during the winter months can be expensive and difficult. The LIHEAP program can help.
If you are struggling financially, see more articles in our Housing/Food/Public Assistance resource section.
Julia Liu is the daughter of a Solo Mom and has a degree in professional communication. She is the mom to two sons. She has worked in early-childhood education and was the director of a nonprofit private preschool for many years. You can follow her on Twitter at @notaDNB1.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.