The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal block grant program that provides financial assistance to low and fixed-income individuals for fuel and utility bills, as well as low-cost weatherization and energy-related home repairs. The LIHEAP statute provides for two types of program funding regular funds and emergency contingency funds. Regular funds are allotted to states according to a formula prescribed in the statute. Contingency funds are allotted and released by the president and the secretary of Health and Human Services. Every year, Congress must appropriate funds for LIHEAP.
LIHEAP is administered by the states, with the states having maximum flexibility in directing program funds. In addition, state and local governments provide assistance through taxpayer-funded initiatives. Fuel funds and other charitable groups provide direct assistance, funded by donations, to those in need. Utilities help these customers through discounts, fee waivers, arrearage forgiveness, and efficiency/weatherization programs, funded by customers and stockholders.
After many years of underfunding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Congress funded the program at $5.1 billion in FY2009 and FY2010. Unfortunately, since then, funding for LIHEAP has been cut drastically to $3.4 billion in FY2015. As a result of the economic downturn and the increase in poverty and unemployment, the number of low-income households eligible for LIHEAP will continue to climb.
LIHEAP Advocates proposed $4.7 billion for LIHEAP in the FY2016 budget.
According to a study by the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, LIHEAP recipient households are more vulnerable to temperature extremes since they are likely to have seniors, disabled members or children in the home. More than 90 percent of LIHEAP households had at least one of these vulnerable household members. The study also showed that these households face many challenges in addition to their energy bills, including unemployment, unhealthy home conditions, and medical issues. Many of the LIHEAP recipients faced significant medical and health problems in the past five years, partly as a result of high energy costs. Nearly one third reported that they went without food, more than 40 percent sacrificed medical care, and one quarter had someone in the home become sick because the home was too cold.
AGA and our member companies work diligently to keep our customers connected, but the need for energy assistance remains. With current funding levels assisting only 20% of eligible households, AGA will continue to support responsible levels of LIHEAP funding.
Participate in LIHEAP Advocacy
Every year, LIHEAP supporters from across the country gather together in the name of advocacy and education. Join us for LIHEAP Action Day, where these advocates go to Capitol Hill to speak with legislators about the need for more LIHEAP funding. For more information, please visit NEUAC.org.
- AGA Fact Sheet on LIHEAP
- The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): Program and Funding, by Libby Perl, Specialist in Housing Policy Congressional Research Service - May 22, 2015
- National Energy and Utility Affordability Coaltion