LIHEAP Helps People Weather Life’s Storms

Though the winter months are over, there is a national program aimed at ensuring that low-income households retain heat and other energy resources throughout the year through federal funding. LIHEAP, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, is a national program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the Health and Human Services website, the program can help pay for bills related to home energy, energy crises and weatherization or energy-related minor home repairs. The program is administered throughout the country by local outpost offices that work to distribute funds and receive applications from local residents. The regional distribution model has increased jurisdiction over how funds are given out and what rules for applications and eligibility.

In Rhode Island, there are two main prongs of the assistance: primary grants, which are sent directly to a family’s energy provider, and crisis assistance, which addresses energy emergencies, like having a quarter of a fuel tank or less or facing utility service termination.

Those who qualify do not need to have an unpaid heating bill, nor do they need to be recipients of other assistance programs, like SNAP. However, recipients of these benefits are included among those eligible to apply for LIHEAP.

Eligibility is based on income in Rhode Island. At the bottom of the scale, a one-person household must have a maximum income of $28,533. Families who qualify for LIHEAP must have a total household income of 60% of the state median income or less. The maximum income level increases as the number of family members in the household increases. These values are adjusted each year. Renters and homeowners alike are eligible; however, there is no guarantee that all applicants will receive benefits.

Because the program is federally funded, money is distributed to states’ local LIHEAP offices, which manage the distribution of the funds. Ordinarily, programs like this are governed by specific guidelines stipulated by the federal government. However, LIHEAP is an exception to this: The program can be administered under guidelines laid out by the regional offices themselves, which means that eligibility, distribution and other factors often vary, depending on a person’s place of residence.

Rhode Island residents can apply for LIHEAP benefits online at the Rhode Island branch’s website.

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