By Jean Setzfand, Vice President, Financial Security, AARP Education and Outreach
Struggling to pay your cooling or heating bills? Help is available. AARP can help you find assistance to stay cool this summer and warm next winter.
Home Cooling and Heating Help
You may be able to get help paying your utility costs through the Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). How much help you may receive depends on your income and household size, how much it costs to heat or cool your home, and what type of fuel you use. If you are eligible for LIHEAP and a homeowner, assistance funds will be paid directly to your energy provider. If you rent, it will be paid to you.
LIHEAP rules and administration are set by each state. Things you should know:
• Types of Assistance – Most people get help to pay for heating costs. In addition, some states provide help for cooling in the summer. Some states also provide help in crisis situations for people who are at risk of running out of fuel or having their utilities shut-off.
• Application Dates – Each state sets dates for when they will take applications for help. Apply as early as you can because assistance is limited and provided on a first-come, first-serve basis.
• Income Limits – Financial assistance is based on household income limits, which are determined by each state.
• Benefits – States set benefit levels based on household income, energy use and cost.
• Where to Apply – States decide where LIHEAP applications are taken. Common sites include community action agencies and local and county social services offices. Find your local social services offices in your state at http://www.aphsa.org/Links/links-state.asp. You can also contact the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) at 1-866-NRG-NEAR (1-866-674-6327).
• For more information about LIHEAP, visit www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap.
There are other ways to get help if you are struggling to pay your energy bills. These programs have various purposes, eligibility guidelines and geographic limits:
• Some utility companies offer rate assistance programs or provide discounts to people with limited income. Check with your utility company for details.
• Emergency charitable assistance helps people having problems paying for energy.
Get more information and utility savings tips at www.aarp.org/utilities.
Jean C. Setzfand is Vice President of the Financial Security Team in the Education and Outreach group at AARP. She leads AARP’s educational and outreach efforts aimed at helping Americans have a financial ‘peace of mind’ in retirement.
Photo credit: @rustybrick via Flickr