Posted on: August 5, 2021
This month marks the 40 year anniversary of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). During the most extreme weather periods, energy is a life-critical resource. LIHEAP was created in 1981 in response to rising energy prices that left many vulnerable households without the necessary utilities to heat or cool their homes. The program provides much needed relief to thousands of families who rely on the service. Today, LIHEAP remains the largest energy assistance program available to low-income households in the United States.
LIHEAP and Dollar Energy Fund
Many families across the nation continue to struggle with energy affordability, in some cases putting their lives at risk, forcing people to make choices between things like medicine or food, or paying their utility bills. However, the number of families applying for LIHEAP far exceeds available program funding, and funding does not increase as the need grows. That’s where Dollar Energy Fund comes in. Our Hardship Program is a last resort for many struggling families. We work in conjunction with LIHEAP to make sure the most possible limited-income households receive the financial assistance they need to survive.
When the LIHEAP program is open, eligible customers must apply for federal funding prior to applying for a grant from Dollar Energy Fund. It’s our goal to help the most people while meeting the greatest need, so we extend the reach of our funds by directing eligible utility customers to apply for federal funding first whenever it is available.
Advocacy Begins with Understanding
The National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) and advocates from across the country have worked tirelessly to urge Congress to support and protect LIHEAP funding. Their efforts have undoubtedly contributed to the success of the program.
Unlike entitlement programs that receive increases with growth in the eligible population, LIHEAP does not automatically receive an increase and must be reviewed and approved by Congress annually. LIHEAP is a small Federal program, but it has a multiplier effect. When struggling families can afford energy, they are more likely to remain in their homes, households are stabilized, and seniors and veterans maintain access to service.
- The Federal Reserve found that nearly 50% of American families would struggle to pay for an emergency expense of just $400.
- More than 5.6 million low-income households received LIHEAP in 2020.
- Only 16.79% of the total eligible population in the U.S. received LIHEAP in 2020.
- 71.67% of LIHEAP recipients in the U.S. have at least one vulnerable member: elderly, disabled, and/or children under six.
- More than 1/4 of those who lost jobs during the COVID-19 crisis reported skipping or needing to skip a utility bill payment.
- 22% of utility customers reported that they had reduced or put off expenses for basic needs like medicine and food in order to pay their utility bills.
Please take the time to learn more about NEUAC by visiting neuac.org.
Click here to view state-by-state fact sheets on LIHEAP eligibility, funding and usage.
Talk to your utility company if you’re experiencing a hardship and they will assess what programs you might be eligible for, including a grant from LIHEAP or Dollar Energy Fund.
Unlike federally funded programs, Dollar Energy Fund relies on neighbors helping neighbors through individual donations. If you would like to help a local family in need with utility assistance, click here to make a donation to Dollar Energy Fund.