The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a joint federal and state program that assists families with the cost of utility bills, such as electricity and heating.
LIHEAP caters to low-income communities who cannot afford the expenses associated with home energy maintenance. With this in mind, applicants must meet strict income and residency guidelines to qualify. However, each state can vary in its requirements, as caseworkers manage the program at the local level.
The application process for LIHEAP also varies by state. Some states offer online applications while others require a pre-screening process before submitting the application. Regardless of the method you select, be ready to provide personal and financial information in your application.
Caseworkers will review the details of your case to determine if you qualify for the program. For more information on the eligibility requirements and the application methods, review the sections below.
The Department of Human Health Services sets poverty guidelines every year that states must use to determine financial eligibility. There are also state median estimates and the federal poverty level (FPL) that serve as benchmarks the program.
Applicants’ total household income must fall within the set limits to qualify for the program. Because the program was designed to serve low-income populations, caseworkers only consider petitioners who are really in need.
Although there are guidelines for qualifying income, there is no standard to follow. As such, each state determines what counts and what does not. For instance, New Hampshire looks at a household’s total gross income to evaluate eligibility. In Vermont, the program does not consider savings and retirement accounts as income.
However, other states also factor in assets and tax deductions. Meeting LIHEAP guidelines also required providing proof of your home’s total energy costs. This includes cooling, heating and electric bills.
To qualify for the LIHEAP program, applicants must also meet household requirements for the state in which they are applying. Each state has different qualifications for household members. For instance, some states only consider the income of household members who are over 18 years of age.
In states like Nevada, all household members must meet the state’s residency and citizenship requirements while in Utah, only one member must be a U.S. citizen or legal noncitizen. With this in mind, it is important that applicants understand the eligibility guidelines for their state before applying.
In certain states, beneficiaries of government assistant programs may automatically qualify for LIHEAP. This includes beneficiaries who meet the eligibility requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Applicants who meet the eligibility requirements for SNAP or TANF and receive benefits can submit an application without having to provide supplemental documentation. Some states only require a simple phone to the local LIHEAP office for benefits.
The application methods for LIHEAP vary greatly from one state to the next. Certain states allow applicants to choose the most convenient method while others require petitioners to follow strict procedures.
Numerous U.S. states have online portals through which applicants can submit applications. Often, this happens in states where the program is managed at the state level instead of the county.
To complete the process online, petitioners must generally create an account on the online platform. For instance, Vermont residents must create an account through myBenefits before submitting a LIHEAP application. When completing the application, petitioners must submit personal and financial details, such as:
The application may also ask you about your household members. This can include questions about whether you share meals, how often and if they are permanent or temporary residents in your home.
Applying by mail is also an available applicable method in several states. In most cases, this option is available in states with a standardized version of the application. The first step in submitting a mail-in LIHEAP application is obtaining the application. You may be able to access the application on the state website and fill out the form after printing it. In some cases, you may need to visit your local LIHEAP office to obtain the application.
Once you receive the form, you must fill it out completely. Having any missing or incorrect information on your application will only delay the process. As such, it is important to review the form thoroughly before submitting. The next step in the process is gathering your documents.
Depending on the state or county, you may need to provide original documents to the office. If you are not sure, be sure to call the office to verify. The final step involves placing all documents and forms in an envelope and mailing it to the appropriate office.
Did You Know? Some offices allow email applications. In this case, you must scan your documents and attach them to the email.
In most cases, residents can apply in person by visiting their local LIHEAP office. Certain states require applicants to bring all household members to the office. In states like Texas, applying in person is a mandatory step in the application process.
You must first identity a LIHEAP office near you. You can office find this information by performing a quick search on your state’s Department of Human Health Services or LIHEAP website.
Once you locate one near you, call the office ahead of time to schedule an appointment and find out what documents you may need to bring. This will help you streamline the process. In some cases, you may be able to print out the application before visiting the office, which saves you time once you get there.
Once you have all your documents, you can make your trip to the LIHEAP office. The benefit of the in-person visit is the ability to receive assistance from representatives. If you are unsure how to answer certain questions, you can receive some clarification from available caseworkers.
After submitting your LIHEAP application, a caseworker assigned to your case will review your information and contact you within a few days or weeks.