States offer the low income home energy assistance program, or LIHEAP, which pays energy bills for low income residents. LIHEAP includes a restriction on the total value of the cash that the household can earn as well as a restriction on total household income that depends on how many people live in the household. According to the state of Ohio, LIHEAP assistance is usually a direct credit that the power company lists on the billing statement that the applicant receives annually.
Eligibility for LIHEAP depends on the average income in the state, territory or district, so a household may qualify for LIHEAP in one state at a certain income but not in another. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, a state cannot authorize LIHEAP for applicants that make more than 150 percent of the state poverty level as of 2010, but the state can set a lower maximum income limit of 110 percent of the poverty level to conserve funds. A state may also establish LIHEAP eligibility using a percentage of the state's average household income, with a maximum limit of 60 percent.
LIHEAP assistance also depends on the source of energy that the household uses for heating. A state may provide additional subsidies to encourage the use of renewable power or other types of energy. According to the state of Ohio, the program pays a subsidy that depends on the primary type of energy that the household uses, so using a small amount of a different energy source will not reduce the subsidy.
When a household calculates its income for HEAP or LIHEAP, it must include some types of income and deduct other sources of income. According to the state of Ohio, HEAP income includes wages, unemployment, alimony, child support, Social Security, pensions and other compensation. HEAP income does not include many sources of income from state and government benefits programs, such as food stamps, some types of government stipends and allowances, and Medicare.
A household can only qualify for LIHEAP if it pays for the utilities. This includes a payment that the landlord adds to the rent if the landlord pays the heating bill directly, according to the state of Oregon. If a state or federal agency pays the heating bill as part of another assistance program for low income residents, the resident is not eligible for LIHEAP.