The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Community Services, provides financial assistance to low income renters or homeowners to help heat or cool their homes by making direct payments to their gas or electric utility companies. The details and name of this program can vary from state to state. It may be referred to as HEAP, the Fuel Assistance Program, the Heating Assistance Program, the Utility Assistance Program, or other state specific names. Under this program, there are two types of benefits: Regular and Emergency. While this program is not specifically designed for seniors, it does help those over the age of 60 disproportionately, as seniors receive priority in situations with limited funding.
LIHEAP alone is not a solution for keeping low income, aging seniors living in their homes. However, when combined with other assistance programs for the elderly, the program can make a significant contribution.
Final eligibility for LIHEAP is determined by each state individually. However, general requirements exist that are common nationwide.
While there is no age requirement, priority is usually given to a household that includes individuals who are at least 60 years old. Marital status only impacts eligibility in so much as the more members of a household, the higher the financial limits for eligibility. Both US citizens and qualified aliens can receive assistance.
There are no requirements tied to the health or physical status of the applicant.
Being eligible for LIHEAP does not guarantee that the applicant will receive assistance. Limited funds are available each year.
The Federal government establishes that the income limit for persons applying for LIHEAP be no lower than 110% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), yet no greater than 150% of the FPL. Within that range, states can choose a specific level. Alternatively, states can elect to use 60% of their state’s median income as the income maximum for LIHEAP assistance. For those states that choose to use 60% of their resident’s median income, the income limit can exceed 150% of the FPL.
In 2019, based on the FPL, this means a single person household with annual income between $13,739 and $18,735 will be eligible. The range for a two-person household is $18,601 – $25,365. Please note, the FPL’s are higher in Hawaii and Alaska due to the higher cost of living in these two states compared to the rest of the states and the District of Columbia. In addition, some states do allow applicants to deduct medical expenses over a certain amount from their income.
Each states’ median income is available from this page on the Office of Community Services website. Please note the information published in the table is calculated for a 4-person household. To adjust for a single person, multiply the 4-person amount by 52% and for a 2-person household multiply by 68%.
States also have the option of considering the applicant’s available financial assets (resources). For those states that do use an asset limit, the limit can be anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000 per household.
A household’s utility company must participate in the LIHEAP program. One should call their utility company to confirm participation and eligibility guidelines. Applicants may be required to submit the following information along with the application form:
For Emergency/Crisis assistance, the following additional documents may be required:
As mentioned previously, there are two types of benefits under this program: Regular Benefits and Emergency Benefits, referred to as Cash Benefits and Crisis Benefits, respectively.
There are also some possible additional benefits. In many states, if an elderly individual is receiving Supplemental Security Income, he or she is eligible for a Special Reduced Residential Service Rate Program, which can provide an additional 20% off their electric and/or gas bills.
Some states also offer weatherization through LIHEAP, which is designed to help low income households by providing insulation, replacing broken windows, and fixing or replacing heaters and furnaces to make homes more energy efficient.
The U.S. Department of Energy also offers a Weatherization Assistance Program for low-income individuals. In some states, qualifying for the LIHEAP program automatically makes the household eligible for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).
LIHEAP assistance is paid as a lump sum sent directly to a utility company or fuel dealer on behalf of the beneficiary/household. This is typically sent once per year, but may be sent in smaller amounts (in greater frequency) to allow the state to better manage its funds. LIHEAP benefits can only be used to pay for energy assistance.
There are several factors that affect the size of grants including the number of people in the household, their income, the type of fuel used, and the size and type of home. The highest amount of assistance is given to those households with the lowest income and highest energy costs, taking into account the number of persons in the household.
The Regular Benefit amount and the Emergency Benefit amount can vary quite a bit between the states and even with the same state. For instance, as of 2019, in Delaware, the maximum heating benefit is $1,852 / year, the maximum cooling benefit is $1,000 / year, and the maximum emergency benefit is $5,000 / year. In Kentucky, the maximum heating benefit is $274 / year, the maximum cooling benefit is $175 / year, and the maximum emergency benefit is $250 / year. Click here to see the maximum LIHEAP benefit amounts for your state.
Those eligible for the Special Reduced Residential Service Rate Program would benefit from an additional 20% off their electric and/or gas bills. For a typical household this could equal an additional $1,000 a year in savings.
Most states offer the LIHEAP benefits on a first come, first serve basis; after the funding pool is empty, financial assistance is no longer available until the following year.
LIHEAP’s first come, first serve funding process results in a rush to apply each fall as this is when most states begin accepting applications. Usually households that include a person over the age of 60 can apply a month in advance, which guarantees seniors priority. In hot weather States, like Arizona, LIHEAP is year round.
There is no cost to apply for the LIHEAP program. However, a household must continue to pay its utility bill during the application/approval process and, if approved, they must continue to pay a portion of the bill.
A household’s utility company must participate in the LIHEAP program. One should call their utility company to confirm participation and eligibility guidelines.
The approval process for the Regular Benefit is 30 days. Payments are made within 15 days of approval. Emergency Services applications are approved within 48 hours.
To begin the application process, contact your state LIHEAP office or call the National Energy Assistance Referral Hotline at 866-674-6327 for more information. Assistance with the application is available by visiting one’s respective county social service office. Homebound applicants can request a home visit by local agency staff. Documentation, as mentioned in the “Other Requirements” section above, may need to be submitted with one’s application.
The starting LIHEAP application filing dates for each state for each type of assistance are included in the table below.
2019 LIHEAP Application Filing Dates (Estimated)
|Heating Filing Date||Cooling Filing Dates||Crisis Filing Dates|
|Alabama||Oct 1 – May 31||Jun 1 – Sep 30||Year-round|
|Alaska||Oct 1 – Apr 30||Nov 1 – Apr 30|
|Colorado||Nov 1 – Apr 30||Year-round|
|Connecticut||Nov 15 – Mar 15||Nov 10 – March 15|
|Delaware||Oct 1 – Apr 30||May 1 – Aug 31||Year-round|
|Florida||Oct 1 – Mar 31||Apr 1 – Sept 30||Year-round|
|Georgia||Nov 1 – May 31||Jun 1 – Sept 31||Year-round|
|Hawaii||Mar 1 – Sept 30||Mar 1 – Sept 30||Year-round|
|Idaho||Oct 1 – Jun 30||Year-round|
|Illinois||Oct 1 – May 31||Oct 1 – May 31|
|Indiana||Oct 1 – May 17||Jun 3 – Aug 23||Nov 1 – Aug 23|
|Iowa||Oct 1 – Apr 30||Year-round|
|Kansas||Jan 17 – Mar 29||Jan 17 – Mar 29|
|Kentucky||Nov 5 – Dec 14||Jan 7 – Mar 29|
|Louisiana||Oct 1 – Mar 31||Apr 1 – Sep 30||Year-round|
|Maine||Oct 1 – July 15||Nov 1 – Apr 30|
|Maryland||Nov 1 – May 31||Jun 1 – Aug 31||Nov 1 – May 31|
|Massachusetts||Nov 1 – Apr 30||Nov 1 – Apr 30|
|Michigan||Jan 1 – Sept 30||Year-round|
|Minnesota||Oct 1 – May 31||Oct 1 – June 30|
|Mississippi||Oct 1 – Apr 30||May 1 – Sep 30||Year-round|
|Missouri||Nov 1 – Mar 31||Nov 1 – Sept 30|
|Montana||Oct 1 – Apr 30||Year-round|
|Nebraska||Oct 1 – Mar 31||Jun 1 – Aug 31||Year-round|
|New Jersey||Oct 1- Aug 31||Oct 1- Aug 31||Oct 1- Aug 31|
|New York||Nov 13 – Mar 15||May 1 – Aug 31||Jan 2 – Mar 15|
|North Carolina||Dec 1 – Mar 31||Year-round|
|North Dakota||Oct 1 – May 31||Year-round||Year-round|
|Ohio||Year-round||Nov 1 – Mar 31 (winter crisis) Jul 1 – Aug 31 (summer crisis)|
|Oklahoma||Nov 6 – Feb 15||Jun 18 – Aug 30||Year-round|
|Pennsylvania||Nov 1 – Apr 12||Nov 1 – Apr 12|
|South Carolina||Oct 1 – Apr 30||May 1 – Sept 30||Year-round|
|Utah||Oct 1 – Apr 30||Year-round|
|Vermont||Year-round||Nov 26 – Apr 30|
|Virginia||Oct 9 – Nov 9||Jun 15 – Aug 15||Nov 1 – Mar 15|
|Washington||Oct 1 – Jun 30||Oct 1 – Jun 30|
|West Virginia||Oct 1 – Mar 31||Apr 1 – Sept 30||Year-round|
|Wisconsin||Oct 1 – May 15||Year-round|
|Wyoming||Oct 1 – May 31||Oct 1 – Apr 15|
For additional state details, click here.