Last week, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) opened for the year, providing relief for individuals and families facing increased heating costs this winter. For households using electric heat sources, this will be the first full cold weather season with their PECO rates uncapped. In these challenging times, assistance like LIHEAP play a critical role in keeping necessary utilities on!
For many older adults living on fixed incomes, LIHEAP is more than a bit of extra help with the electric bill: it’s the money that keeps the heat on and helps them stay afloat in the winter months. Unfortunately, one of the less publicized consequences of the congressional budgetary strife in Washington over the past year is the dramatic decrease in federal support for LIHEAP. Pennsylvania’s share of federal funds for LIHEAP was cut in half, going from $326 million last year to $163 million this year, leading to major changes in eligibility and benefit criteria. As the Valley News Dispatch and others have reported, the minimum payment for a LIHEAP cash grant has been reduced from $300 to $100. Additionally, LIHEAP Crisis grants, which provide assistance to households facing a shutoff notice, trying to get service turned back on, or running out of heating oil, have been reduced from $400 to $300.
It is essential for seniors, caregivers, and advocates to ensure that eligible older adults apply for LIHEAP as soon as possible while funds are still available.
There are three ways to apply for the LIHEAP cash benefit:
- Apply online at COMPASS
- Download an application (Spanish also available) and return it to your local County
- Apply in person at your County Assistance Office
Other community-based agencies, like Neighborhood Energy Centers in Philadelphia and similar organizations elsewhere can also help with the application process. There are no fees associated with applying for LIHEAP, and no one should ever charge you for help applying. If you or someone you are caring for needs assistance applying for LIHEAP, contact CARIE OnLINE or the CARIE LINE at 1-800-356-3606 for assistance.
Written by Paul Vande Stouwe, CARIE MSW Intern