Seniors living on a fixed low income often need help paying energy bills. The federal government funds several heating assistance programs to help low-income households. For individuals living on pensions and other fixed sources of income, unpredictable energy costs can cause serious financial hardship. Help with electric and heating bills can make life easier for seniors struggling to make ends meet.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program provides financial assistance to low- and moderate-income households that need help paying for energy costs. These include heating and cooling costs for seniors. Eligibility requirements vary among states. The program bases income guidelines on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines and state median income estimates. Certain households are automatically eligible for LIHEAP under the law. These include households where at least one member is receiving assistance under another federal program such as Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or food stamps. Individuals receiving veterans benefits may also qualify if they meet the income guidelines. In many states, low-income elderly households that receive food stamps automatically receive an application for LIHEAP each heating season. Most state programs prioritize households that include elderly and disabled individuals or young children.
The Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program provides emergency heating assistance to low-income households where at least one member is age 60 or older. To qualify for help paying your fuel bills, your total gross monthly household income must fall below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien who can show proof of need in the form of a past due, final or disconnection notice from a utility company or fuel supplier. You may qualify to receive benefits twice each year if you have a home heating or cooling emergency. Contact the Department of Health and Human Services office nearest you to apply.
Weatherization Assistance Program
The Weatherization Assistance Program assists low-income elderly households in reducing their energy costs. Weatherization services are available to renters and homeowners alike. When funds are limited, the program gives priority consideration to seniors, individuals with disabilities and families with children. An elderly household must meet the income eligibility guidelines. Some of the services provided to help make a home more energy efficient include making repairs to heating and cooling systems, insulating water pipes, installing insulation in walls and attics and sealing leaks with weatherstripping and caulking.
Many electric and natural gas utility companies offer budget-billing programs that can help low-income seniors pay their monthly energy bills. This allows a household to pay the same amount each month. The amount you pay is based on your total energy usage during the previous 12 months. Some utility companies also offer discounted residential rates for low-income households. The percentage of the discount is based on your gross household income. Talk to your utility company about programs it offers to see if you qualify.
- SeniorJournal.com; Low-Income Seniors May Get Assistance With High Energy Bills; January 2006
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; LIHEAP Eligibility Criteria; November 2010
- Senior Resource Alliance: Emergency Home Heating Assistance for the Elderly
- Consumer Affairs.com; Energy Assistance Available to Seniors; Huffman; October 2010
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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