Every state has a utility bill and energy assistance program. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – and other programs like it – can help cover some of your housing bills.
LIHEAP pays for more than just bills. In the majority of states, the program can also help fix energy-related appliances and weatherize your home to make it more energy-efficient.
You may also get discounts on communication bills, like landlines, cellphones, and internet services. The federal government deems contact with work, school, and emergency services as a necessity. You could apply for a free cell phone with internet access through the program.
Programs like LIHEAP have income thresholds, so you must earn less than the limit to receive benefits. The income limits tend to be the same as they are for other government programs in your state. You may automatically qualify for utility bill and energy assistance if you participate in one or more of the following:
· Public Housing or Section 8 (HVC)
· Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
· Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
· Social Security Income (SSI)
· Veteran benefit programs
Generally, you may qualify if your household earns less than 150% of the federal poverty level or 60% of the state’s median income. Every state has different requirements, so your state may have lower thresholds.
Your state may have other basic requirements, such as being a resident of the state and being a U.S. citizen or having a legal immigration status. You must also be the person in your household that pays the utility bills, and you may need to show proof in the form of a household bill in your name.
While each state has LIHEAP, not all provide both heating and cooling funds. For instance, many northern states do not have funds for cooling needs, including Alaska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Similarly, states set different maximum benefit amounts. For instance, the state may set a maximum allotment for cooling needs at $1,000 but limit heating needs at $500.
The amount for an energy “crisis” is usually more than regular benefits. You could receive both regular and crisis funds if you qualify. Below are some examples of an energy crisis, though keep in mind your state may use different criteria:
· The health or well-being of a member of your household would likely be in jeopardy without energy assistance
· Utility services have been discontinued or are at risk of terminating
· Your household ran out of fuel or will shortly, such as within 24 to 48 hours
· The weather interrupted your household’s energy supply, and you need a different or secondary source
If you need help paying your water and wastewater bill, check your state’s Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). LIHEAP and LIHWAP usually operate similarly.
The Lifeline Program deducts $9.25 a month from your landline, cellphone, or internet bill. You can request the discount for an eligible single-service or bundled services bill. Your household can only receive one discount, so another family member cannot receive additional discounts.
The requirements for Lifeline are similar to LIHEAP, and you may automatically qualify if you participate in other government programs.