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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Got Energy? Federal Program Helps Low Income Families Pay High Heating Bills in the Winter

Low Income Family

Heating costs in the winter can be high, creating a financial burden for low-income households. Where can individuals or families go who need help paying their heating bills? There is a Federal program called Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that can provide assistance. LIHEAP is a Federal program that helps eligible low-income households pay for heating and/or cooling their homes.

Eligibility is based on income. A family of four, for example, would qualify for assistance if their household income was no more than $34,575 per year. Some states also provide assistance to weatherize homes. Weatherization costs would include insulation in walls and attic, and heating system repairs.

Here are the Federal program income guidelines:

Household Size*Maximum Income Level (Per Year)
1$16,755
2$22,695
3$28,635
4$34,575
5$40,515
6$46,455
7$52,395
8$58,335

Each state has their own program. The program may go by the name HEAP but basically provides the same type of assistance. The state of Ohio, for example, has HEAP for families with incomes up to 200 percent below the federal poverty guidelines. The amount of assistance received is based on income, number of people in the household and the type of fuel used to heat the home. Ohio also offers the Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP) for those with incomes at or below 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines. It is a payment plan where the customer pays part of the heating bill every month and receives credit for the rest. This enables customers to keep their utilities from being disconnected.

The whole idea of LIHEAP is to help individuals with the lowest incomes pay their energy costs, particularly the elderly, those with disabilities and those with young children in the home. These are the groups that could suffer serious health risks if they cannot afford heating or cooling in their homes. In addition, those who live in subsidized or public housing and pay for their own utilities may also be eligible for LIHEAP assistance.

To find out how to apply in your state, visit www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory-contact-listing
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