All About Energy Assistance for Low Income Households

All About Energy Assistance for Low Income Households

Energy is essential not only for powering devices, appliances, and equipment. You need the energy to power heating in the cold winters and air conditioning during the summers. Energy is essential to power devices that provide daily basic needs like heating, cooling, and ensuring food is kept at safe temperatures. 

Without energy, people in extreme climates can be placed in danger. Unfortunately, there are a lot of families that struggle to make ends meet and struggle to pay their energy bills. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was developed by the U.S. Government in 1981 to help struggling families pay their energy bills. Now, learn everything you need to know about LIHEAP. 

What is LIHEAP?

LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps keep families healthy and safe through initiatives that help with energy costs. The federally funded program provides assistance in managing costs associated with home energy-related issues. If you find yourself unable to make your utility payments there are options.

These assistance programs offer one-time payments and are only meant to provide temporary energy assistance. The LIHEAP programs are administered at the state level, and if you are a family in need, contact your local LIHEAP office or reach them through a human services department.

Because this is provided at the state level, each state may provide different services such as:

  • Help to pay heating and cooling bills.
  • Emergency services in the event of an energy crisis such as utility shut-offs.
  • Weatherization is also stated as low-cost home improvements that make your home more energy-efficient. 

LIHEAP is not meant to pay for all energy costs and will not cover your entire utility bill. Many states limit LIHEAP to only assisting with your primary heating source. Because of the way LIHEAP is designed, LIHEAP will provide a varying amount of assistance depending on those who have the highest energy costs or needs. 

With the LIHEAP program, grantees can allocate a portion of the funds on energy-related repairs, or weatherization, for homes to fix things like:

  • Repair or replace broken furnaces or air conditioner units.
  • Install insulation.
  • Fix leaky windows or doors.

There is a separate program dedicated to weatherization run by The U.S. Department of Energy. The program is called Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program and is designated to help specifically with repairs to homes or apartments of low-income people.

LIHEAP can provide the assistance you need to help you and your family stay warm or cool when you need it. Your local LIHEAP office can provide information on what qualifications are required, how you can apply, and what documentation you may need to provide.

It is important to note that assistance may only be available until federal funding runs out, depending on the state you live in. LIHEAP does not provide help for water and sewer bills.

Qualifications for LIHEAP

All government assistance programs require that you meet all the listed requirements before you are eligible for assistance. Many programs’ requirements must at least meet income eligibility along with the household size to qualify for LIHEAP.

If your maximum annual gross income is more than what is listed, you may be disqualified from receiving LIHEAP benefits. Eligible income and household size are evaluated annually and may change. You will want to check with the local LIHEAP office to review the income eligibility to see if you meet the requirements. 

LIHEAP requirements also require that you must provide proof that you need help with home energy assistance. If you or a household member participate in certain government-assisted programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), SSI (Supplemental Security Income), and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), you may be automatically eligible. 

How to Apply For LIHEAP

To apply, you will want to locate the nearest LIHEAP office. You can visit or call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to see if they have a locator to help you find the nearest agency.

Each state may have specific requirements outside of the federal requirements, be sure to review all your state’s requirements before you apply. When applying for LIHEAP, you may want to have your ID or proof of identity, citizen status, address verification, proof of income (W-2s, tax returns, or pay stubs), bank statements, and proof of existing government assistance you already receive.

You will need to provide copies of your energy bills, estimates of weatherization, or any estimates of energy-related home repairs your home may need. 

Many states have online applications, but you may need to print them to submit them. 

If you do not qualify, your state, utility company, and charities may provide other programs for which you may be eligible. If you do not qualify, LIHEAP may be able to direct you to other community resources.

How to Contact and Find More Information

The National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) can help you with energy assistance referrals. NEAR is a free service to help provide you with information on where you can apply for LIHEAP. NEAR is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m.- 5 p.m. (Mountain Time).

  • Call them 1-866-674-6327 toll-free or TTY 1-866-367-6228.
  • Email NEAR at – When you email, you want to be sure to include your city, county, and state you need assistance in.

The LIHEAP Clearinghouse is a helpful federal website that houses information about variations in LIHEAP intending to expand and enhance information on low-income energy issues with the national low-income energy network. The LIHEAP Clearinghouse is run by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) through a training and technical assistance contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Administration for Children and Families, the Office of Community Services, and the Division of Energy Assistance.

In many areas of the country LIHEAP is only available if you have, first, contacted your utility company to try and work something out. Make sure you have done so, and have in writing the statement from your utility company stating they will not extend services or work out a payment plan with you.