What Is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)?

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally funded program that assists families with energy costs. It’s important to note that LIHEAP only helps people meet their energy needs. There’s a separate Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) that helps eligible individuals and families with water costs.

Key Takeaways

  • The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally funded program that provides financial assistance to individuals and families who need help with energy costs.
  • The type of help LIHEAP offers includes assistance with paying energy bills, weatherization, and minor energy-related home repairs.
  • LIHEAP programs are administered at the state level, similar to other types of social service programs.
  • Eligibility for LIHEAP assistance is based on household size and annual household income.

Understanding Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

LIHEAP is a federally funded program that provides help with energy costs to eligible individuals and families. Specifically, LIHEAP offers help with managing costs such as:

  • Home energy bills
  • Energy crises
  • Weatherization
  • Energy-related minor home repairs

These are one-time payments designed to offer temporary energy assistance. Though LIHEAP is federally funded, it’s administered at the state level, so if you want to apply for benefits, you need to contact your state or tribal LIHEAP office. For instance, in North Carolina, you need to contact your nearest Department of Social Services office.

Your LIHEAP office should be able to tell you:

  • The qualifications you need to meet
  • How to apply for assistance
  • What documentation you may need to apply

Depending on your state, applications for assistance may only be accepted until federal funding runs out.

Qualifications and Requirements for LIHEAP

As with other government assistance programs, you must first qualify before you can receive any type of benefits. In terms of who is eligible for LIHEAP, your ability to qualify is based on your household income and size. The table below illustrates the maximum income thresholds allowed based on household size to qualify for LIHEAP benefits.

Household Size and Maximum Income Eligibility for LIHEAP
Household Size Maximum Income Level (Annually)
1 $19,320
2 $26,130
3 $32,940
4 $39,750
5 $46,560
6 $53,370
7 $60,180
8 $66,990

If your maximum annual income is more than what’s allowed for your household size, you’ll likely be disqualified from receiving LIHEAP benefits. If you have more than eight people in your household, you can add $6,180 per additional person to the maximum income allowed.

Check with your local LIHEAP office to confirm the most up-to-date income limits for your household size.

How to Apply for Low Income Home Energy Assistance

The first step in applying for energy assistance benefits is locating your nearest LIHEAP office. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a LIHEAP local office locator you can use to find an agency near you.

When you know whom to contact to apply, you can begin the process of requesting energy assistance. At this step, it’s important to note that your state may have specific requirements you need to meet in addition to the household income thresholds outlined earlier.

For example, to qualify for LIHEAP assistance in North Carolina, you must:

  • Have at least one U.S. citizen or noncitizen in your household who meets the eligibility criteria
  • Meet an income test
  • Have reserves at or below $2,250
  • Be responsible for your household’s heating costs

Additionally, North Carolina limits when you can apply for assistance. Households that include a person aged 60 or older or someone who’s disabled and receiving services through the N.C. Division of Aging and Adult Services can sign up for assistance from Dec. 1 to Dec. 31. All other households can apply from Jan. 1 through March 31 or until federal funding is exhausted.

Your state may have similar rules, or it may have a different set of guidelines you need to meet. So again, it’s important to reach out to your local county LIHEAP office to learn more about how you can qualify and apply.

When applying for LIHEAP, you may need to provide certain documentation, including:

  • Proof of identity
  • Address verification
  • Citizenship status
  • Social Security number
  • Proof of earnings (including wage stubs, W-2 forms, or tax records)
  • Bank statements
  • Proof of benefits (any other government or private benefits you receive)

You also need to provide copies of your energy bills or estimates of any weatherization or energy-related home repairs you need to make. All of the information you share is used to determine if you qualify for Low Income Home Energy Assistance and what benefits you can receive.

If you or a member of your household participates in certain other federal benefit programs—such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)—you may be automatically eligible for energy assistance through LIHEAP.

If You Don’t Qualify or If You Need More Help With Energy Bills

If you’re unable to qualify for assistance—or you’ve exhausted all the benefits for which you’re eligible—there may be other options for managing your energy bills. First, you can check with your energy provider or state government to see if any moratoriums have been issued on disconnects or service interruptions. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states issued executive orders prohibiting service providers from shutting off utilities to customers who were struggling financially.

If your state has a moratorium in place barring energy disconnections—but your utilities have been shut off—you should contact your state attorney general’s office to file a complaint.

Next, you can talk to your energy provider about ways to manage past-due bills or get caught up. That may include working out a monthly payment plan to pay off outstanding arrears or opting for a different type of payment plan. For instance, you may choose a flat-rate billing option versus being billed for monthly usage. This could help make your energy bills more predictable all year round.

You could also look into the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps households improve the energy efficiency of their homes. If you’re eligible for this program, you may be able to get financial help with making home improvements that could reduce your energy bills.

Finally, consider reaching out to local churches or nonprofit organizations in your area. You may be able to get temporary help paying utility bills or making repairs to home energy systems if you can demonstrate financial need.