Q: What is LIHEAP?
A: Congress adopted the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in 1981 to help Americans with financial hardship pay for heating and cooling energy costs. LIHEAP stemmed from previous outreach measures designed to avert harmful consequences to vulnerable households caused by utility shutoff, fuel shortages or other energy emergencies for Americans who couldn’t afford to pay their bills. The federal program allocates block grants to the states for distribution to eligible households. To qualify, household incomes may not exceed 175 percent of the federal poverty threshold. For a household of one, the income threshold is $21,858. For a family of four, it’s $45,603. In fiscal year 2019, Iowa received $54.6 million, distributing heating assistance to 82,644 households (191,281 individuals). The average statewide heating assistance benefit was approximately $458. More than one-third of these households included an elderly member. Benefits are aimed towards vulnerable citizens, including seniors, individuals with disabilities and families with young children. LIHEAP uses a federal funding formula to determine the block grants allocated to the states, nearly $3.7 billion in fiscal year 2019. States manage distribution of LIHEAP assistance for their residents, based on household income, household size, type of fuel (natural gas, electric, LP, fuel oil and wood/coal) and type of housing.
Q: Who is eligible to apply?
A: An early snap of cold temperatures in late October serves as a reminder for Iowans to prepare for the winter months ahead. In fact, the Farmers’ Almanac predicts unseasonably cold temperatures to stretch across the state, forecasting “freefalling, frigid temperatures” to reach across the Northern Plains into the Great Lakes. Frigid temperatures can cause bone-chilling discomfort; it also can deplete household budgets on utility bills for people with low or fixed incomes. LIHEAP is available to eligible Iowans on a first-come, first-served basis. Sign-ups for all qualifying Iowa households start November 1. The Iowa Department of Human Rights operates a network of agencies that have offices in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. To apply, Iowans need to contact their local county outreach office. You will need to provide proof of income (for ages 19 and older), such as pay stubs or federal tax returns; recent heating bill; recent electricity bill; and Social Security documents for all household members. Iowans receiving LIHEAP assistance will receive customer education about energy conservation and simultaneously apply for the Weatherization Assistance Program to help with cost-effective home energy efficiency improvements. In addition, Iowa law provides LIHEAP customers may not be disconnected from their electric or natural gas supply from Nov. 1 to April 1.
For more information, Iowans may check online at https://humanrights.iowa.gov/dcaa/where-apply; dial “211”; or write LIHEAP Iowa Department of Human Rights Capitol Complex Des Moines, IA 50319