The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal block grant program that provides money to help low and fixed-income individuals heat and cool their homes.
According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics, there are 33 million households whose low incomes make them eligible to receive LIHEAP. However, available assistance falls far short of the need. In fact, only one-fifth of the millions of households who qualified for LIHEAP in 2005 and 2006 received assistance.
A large percentage of LIHEAP households have elderly or disabled or young children living in the home. Most LIHEAP beneficiaries do not receive welfare or other forms of public assistance. Instead, they are working, retired or disabled people with below-poverty incomes who receive $318 per year, on average, to pay toward a heating or cooling bill that averages $800 - $1,400. More than half of LIHEAP beneficiaries use natural gas heat.
Many AGA-member companies have developed and financed fuel funds and other valuable assistance to help customers who have trouble paying their natural gas bills. All told, energy utilities supplemented federal funding with $1.7 billion in program support to low-income households in 2004.
Welfare reform has increased the number of individuals who work full-time - but often at a sub-poverty wage that may render them unable to pay their energy bills. Meanwhile, restructuring in the natural gas and electric industries may remove many of the special protections, such as lower bills, extended payment, forgiveness and weatherization programs, currently provided to low-income households by their utility companies. As a consequence, millions of households could fall into an "energy gap" that places them at heightened risk of falling behind on their energy-bill payments without support from LIHEAP.
In FY2005 and FY2006, original appropriations for LIHEAP approximated $1.9 billion for the regular program and $300 million in emergency assistance. Fortunately, in FY2006, Congress made its first meaningful increase to LIHEAP in 20 years when it passed legislation in late-March to increase FY2006 funding by $1 billion, with $500 million directed to the emergency program and $500 million to the regular program. As a result, total FY2006 funding equaled $2.5 billion for LIHEAP and $700 million for the emergency program.
AGA strongly supports an annual appropriation of at least $5.1 billion for LIHEAP in FY 2007.
For more information, visit LIHEAP Resources (organizations & contacts) or click on the links below.
News, Reports and Additional Resources
Senate Approves More Energy Assistance for Low Income Households (March 2006)
LIHEAP Update (Summer 2006)
Utilities and Customers Can Take Steps to Manage Higher Energy Bills this Winter (October 2005)
LIHEAP Funding Snapshot (October 2005)
Need for Low-Income Energy Assistance Outpaces Federal Funds (September 2005)
The Growing Need to Help Low-Income Energy Consumers: Government, Charitable and Utility Programs (AGA Study, September 2005)
AGA Letter to Chairman Regula Requesting Funding Increases in FY '06 (September 2005)
Energy Organizations Letter to Secretary Norton Requesting Royalty-in-Kind Natural Gas to Low Income Customers (September 2005)
Assisting Low Income Customers Remains a Priority for Natural Gas Utilities (August 2005)
Gas Utilities Join National Fuel Funds Network in Honoring Senator Clinton With Prestigious Extra Mile Award (March 2005)
NARUC Endorses More Funds for LIHEAP and Risk-Based Approach to Distribution Integrity (February 2005)
AGA Calls on Congress to Increase Funding to Help Keep Low-Income Americans Warm (February 2005)
The Critical Need for LIHEAP and Its Effect on Utility Customers (AGA Study, September 2004)