The Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Federal Government Benefit Program

Older man warming himself by fireplace
The Federal LIHEAP Program Helps Low-Income People Save on Home Heating. Denis Doyle / Getty Images

If you cannot afford to pay your home energy bill, your home may not be safe, and you and your family may be at risk of serious illness or injury. The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may be able to help keep you and your family safe and healthy.

Program Description

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps qualifying low income households pay their heating and cooling energy costs.

In some states, home weatherization assistance is also available.

General Eligibility Requirements

In order to qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), you must need financial assistance for home energy costs and your household's annual income before taxes must not exceed income levels established by the various state and local LIHEAP offices, based on the current state median income and federal poverty levels.

Important Notes About LIHEAP Qualification

According to the U.S. Administration for Families and Children (ACF), qualifying for LIHEAP assistance does not assure you of getting it. Depending on the total amount funds allocated to the program by Congress in each annual federal budget, an average of about 20% of all households that are qualified for LIHEAP arte able to receive benefits. When LIHEAP funds run out, as the almost always do, no new benefits can be paid until Congress makes more funding available.

State LIHEAP offices have the option of granting automatic LIHEAP benefits qualification to any household in its jurisdiction that already get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Supplemental Security Income, or certain types of veteran’s benefits.

However, not all state LIHEAP offices offer this, and some that do may still require applicants to fill out the application forms.

Persons who rent are also eligible to get LIHEAP assistance. Both renters who pay their energy bills directly or indirectly as part of their rent are eligible for LIHEAP as long as they meet the other qualifications.

However, persons who live federally-subsidized public housing may NOT be eligible for LIHEAP assistance depending on where they live and how they pay for their utilities. The local LIHEAP offices can provide the specific details.

Does Income Limit LIHEAP Eligibility?

Like many other federal benefit and assistance programs, LIHEAP is a “needs based” program, in which the applicant’s income and other assets are use to determine eligibility. In other words, you might make too much to qualify. Each LIHEAP state office sets its own income limits based on the state’s median income levels, geographic location, local cost of living, unemployment rate, the size of the family, and other economic factors.

In addition, some local areas may have other or additional requirements for receiving LIHEAP benefits. All persons considering applying for LIHEAP assistance are urged to contact their local LIHEAP office to learn about income limits and other eligibility criteria.

How to Apply

To find out whether you are eligible to receive LIHEAP benefits and to apply for assistance, contact your state or tribal LIHEAP office. For help in applying for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program benefits, you may also call this toll-free number: 866-674-6327.

Documents to Take With You

When you apply, you should be able to provide:

  • Recent copies of your utility bills.
  • A recent payroll stub or other proof that shows your current gross income.
  • Documentation showing income from Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Pension Funds, disability, etc.
  • Final Utility Termination Notice (if you've received a shut-off notice from your energy company).
  • Proof of present address (e.g., rent receipt, lease or deed, property tax bill).
  • Proof of total number of people living in your household (e.g., birth certificates, school records, etc.).
  • Social Security cards (or numbers) for all persons living in your household.
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal permanent resident status.