Worried About Sky-High Energy Bills This Winter? This Program Could Help

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If you think you might qualify, consider applying ASAP before money runs out.

key points

  • The federal government provides grants to states to help low-income residents pay for their housing bills.
  • But each state’s program works a little differently.

It’s not winter yet, but many of us have already started reaching for the thermostat dial as temperatures begin to drop. This definitely makes life indoors a little more comfortable, but it can be hard on your bank account, especially with inflation driving up costs this year. Some families may find themselves forgoing comfort just to save a little on their monthly bills.

But there might be another way. The federal government offers a program designed to assist low-income households with their energy costs, and if you qualify, it could make a big difference to your home and your budget.

How it works

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally funded program, administered by individual states, that helps low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills. It can also help them pay for low-cost weatherization, like insulating doors and windows, and fixing broken furnaces and air conditioners.

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The states receive money from the federal government to distribute to qualifying residents in their states. How much you get depends in part on where you live, your annual income, and your family size. But it generally doesn’t cover your full energy bill.

If you rely upon natural gas to heat your home, the money you receive may go toward that bill, but LIHEAP generally won’t pay anything toward your electric bill, water bill, or other utilities. It may not even pay all of your gas bill because it’s only intended to supplement your personal income.

How to apply

Each state operates its own LIHEAP program, and all are a little different. Those interested in the program should contact their local LIHEAP office to inquire about eligibility requirements. Generally, households must have an annual income below a certain level for their state and family size. Some states may have additional criteria.

Those who receive other government assistance, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or certain veterans benefits may qualify for LIHEAP automatically.

But qualifying and receiving benefits aren’t always the same thing. Sometimes, states run out of LIHEAP money before they’ve served all their eligible residents. If this happens, you may not be able to receive LIHEAP benefits right away. However, your LIHEAP office may be able to help you identify other community resources that can help you save on your energy costs.

The program may not provide all the assistance you need, but even a little bit can make your life a little bit easier, especially as we head into the holiday season. If you think you might qualify for LIHEAP, it’s worth setting aside a few minutes to contact your state office and learn more about its program.

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