Monday marks the first day that low-income families can apply for state assistance in paying their home energy bills. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, is a federally funded program in which the state distributes cash grants to those who might not be able to afford their heating bills during the winter. Department of Public Welfare spokesman Michael Race says there are two components to LIHEAP assistance. “There are cash grants that go to families to help them pay their heating bills and in those cases the grants are sent directly to the utility company or the fuel provider and show up as a credit on the consumer’s bill. There are also crisis grants that help households who have an emergency and are in immediate danger of having their heat cut off.”
For this winter season, Pennsylvania has requested about $3.3 billion, which would be divided into $2.5 billion in regular grant money and $790 million in crisis grants. Race says the Department typically extends the window for application because they don’t spend as much money early in the winter season as they do in the later months. For those who might need help paying their bills this winter season, Race suggests searching for the income eligibility guidelines at the Department’s Web site and learning how to apply for LIHEAP. One way in which to apply is by filling out an application at the Allegheny County Assistance Office or one of many local utility providers.