The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program was created to help struggling households with energy-related expenses. Although it's a federal program, each state runs its own LIHEAP and sets the specific eligibility guidelines. In California, the program is administered by the Department of Community Services and Development. You must contact your local community action agency to see if you're eligible.
You must be a California resident who can show you need help to pay your energy bills. Your gross income (before taxes) must be less than 60 percent of the state's median income based on the number of people living in your household. In 2015, a family of three could not exceed an annual income of $39,150, while a family of four was limited to $46,607. You could be automatically eligible if you or any household members participate in California public assistance programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The California Department of Community Services and Development features an eligibility wizard to help you determine if you qualify for the program.
The LIHEAP includes three components, each offering different services.
- The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) awards financial assistance on a one-time basis to help cover an energy bill. The benefit is based on your household size, income and bill. The maximum award is $1,000.
- The Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP) provides emergency help for an energy or weather related crisis and life-threatening emergencies. This program can help if you've received a 24- to 48-hour notice to disconnect or if your services have already been shut-off due to non-payment. The maximum payment is $1,000.
- LIHEAP Weatherization offers weatherization upgrades to make your home more energy-efficient, which will help lower your monthly utility bills. According to the CSD, weatherization services can cut heating and cooling bills by $400 in just the first year. The program will fix leaks or seals, replace windows, maintain an air conditioning system and ensure proper levels of insulation.
Applying for Assistance
The CSD has an interactive map that shows provider locations near you. You'll see a contact email address and phone number for the one you select. It's up to you to contact the provider to schedule your appointment. You'll need to bring certain documents, including current utility bills, proof of income and identification for household members. Applications typically take 30 days to review, but crisis assistance is generally available within 48 hours.
Since funding is limited, priority is given to households with elderly, disabled and young children.