Who Qualifies For Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program In California?

Who qualifies for low income home energy assistance program in California?

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally funded program that helps low-income households pay their home energy bills. LIHEAP provides grants to help families pay heating and cooling costs, manage energy crises, and make energy-related home repairs. The program aims to help some of the most vulnerable households afford their energy bills, including low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. Funds are distributed by state agencies, usually health and human service or community service departments. LIHEAP helps millions of households each year stay warm, safe, and healthy.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), LIHEAP assisted over 5.8 million households in meeting their home heating and cooling needs in FY2021. With energy costs rising, LIHEAP is an essential program that provides vital energy assistance to those who need it most.

Income Requirements

In California, income eligibility for LIHEAP is based on the federal poverty level. The maximum income allowed depends on the number of people in your household. According to the California Department of Community Services and Development, the maximum annual income limits for LIHEAP in 2023 are:

  • 1 person household – $27,180
  • 2 person household – $36,620
  • 3 person household – $46,060
  • 4 person household – $55,500
  • 5 person household – $64,940
  • 6 person household – $74,380
  • 7 person household – $83,820
  • 8 person household – $93,260

Income includes all taxable and non-taxable revenues from all household members, with some exceptions. Your local LIHEAP provider can help determine if your household meets the requirements.

Household Size

The income limits for LIHEAP eligibility in California vary based on household size. As household size increases, the income limit also increases. This is because LIHEAP takes into account the number of people living in the household when determining eligibility.

For example, according to the California Department of Community Services and Development, the maximum monthly income for a 1 person household to qualify for LIHEAP is $2,882.83. For a 2 person household, the limit increases to $3,769.83/month. With each additional person in the household, the income limit also rises by a certain amount.

Understanding how household size affects the income thresholds is important for families to determine if they may qualify for LIHEAP energy assistance. Larger households with more dependents can have higher total incomes and still meet the eligibility guidelines for their household size.

County Specific Limits

Income limits for LIHEAP vary by county across California. According to the California Department of Community Services and Development, income eligibility is based on the Federal Poverty Level and adjusted annually. For example, in 2023 the income limit for a household of 1 person in Alameda County is $35,078 per year, while the limit for a 1 person household in Alpine County is $40,722 per year.

The income limits also increase with household size. In Los Angeles County, the 2023 income limit for a household of 1 is $36,620 per year, while the limit for a household of 8 is $98,550 per year. Applicants can view the full income eligibility guidelines by county and household size on the CSD website.

Some key factors determining the income limits in each county include cost of living, median income levels, and federal funding allocations. The CSD notes that counties with higher costs of living tend to have higher LIHEAP income limits.

Sources:

LIHEAP Income Eligibility – California Department of Community Services and Development

California Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program – Benefits.gov

Eligible Energy Costs

The LIHEAP program can pay for a range of home energy costs including heating and cooling bills, emergency furnace repairs, and weatherization improvements. Some of the specific energy expenses that are covered include:

  • Heating fuel bills such as natural gas, electricity, oil, propane, wood, and coal
  • Cooling bills for air conditioning
  • Emergency furnace repairs and replacements
  • Insulation and weatherization improvements like caulking and weatherstripping
  • Temporary emergency shelter if the household is disconnected from utilities

The LIHEAP program provides two types of energy assistance – heating assistance and crisis assistance. Heating assistance helps eligible households pay a portion of winter heating bills, while crisis assistance provides support for energy-related emergencies like a broken furnace. Both forms of assistance can help low-income families keep up with energy costs and maintain safe, warm households.

Appliance Repairs

The LIHEAP program in California provides eligible low-income households with assistance for certain appliance repairs and replacements through partnerships with utility companies like PG&E.

Specifically, furnace and water heater repair or replacement may be available when PG&E determines existing natural gas units are inoperative or unsafe. New energy efficient models will be installed free of charge by PG&E to eligible homeowners under LIHEAP.

Appliances that are broken beyond repair can potentially be replaced free of charge with energy efficient models as well. Other essential appliances like refrigerators or AC units may also be repaired or replaced on a case by case basis.

To receive assistance with appliance repairs or replacements through LIHEAP, customers must meet income eligibility requirements and apply through their local service provider or PG&E’s CARE program. The program aims to improve energy efficiency and reduce utility costs for low income households.

Application Process

To apply for LIHEAP in California, there are a few options:

You can apply online at the California Online Application Portal. This allows you to submit an application electronically.

You can also download a paper application from the California Department of Community Services and Development (CSD) website and mail it in. Paper applications are available in multiple languages.

In addition, you can pick up an application in person at your local service provider office. You can find a list of providers by county on the CSD website.

Required documents include:

  • Proof of income for all household members (pay stubs, tax returns, etc.)
  • Recent energy bill
  • Social security cards for all household members
  • Photo ID for the main applicant

Be sure to submit all required documentation with your LIHEAP application for efficient processing. Applications are accepted year-round but funds are limited.

Program Funding

LIHEAP is funded by federal block grants, state funds, and utility contributions. The federally funded block grants make up the bulk of LIHEAP funding in California.

The amount of federal LIHEAP funds allocated to California varies from year to year. In recent years it has ranged from around $80 million to over $200 million. California supplements the federal funds with state funds authorized in the annual budget. For fiscal year 2022-23, the state budget included $108 million in additional LIHEAP funding.

LIHEAP funding is limited and usually only enough to provide bill payment assistance for heating and cooling costs to a fraction of income eligible households in California. According to the California Department of Community Services and Development (CSD), LIHEAP typically only has resources to help about 15-20% of eligible households in the state.

With additional funding provided through the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021-2022, LIHEAP was able to expand assistance to more households impacted by COVID-19. But in typical years, LIHEAP runs out of funding well before the end of the program year.

Sources:

https://www.csd.ca.gov/Pages/LIHEAPProgram.aspx

https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1540

Priority Groups

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in California gives priority to certain vulnerable households in providing energy bill assistance. According to the 2023-Draft-LIHEAP-State-Plan.pdf, LIHEAP priority groups in California include:

  • Households with the lowest incomes and highest energy costs in relation to income
  • Households with elderly members (60 years or older)
  • Households with young children (5 years or younger)
  • Households that have a high energy burden
  • Households with members who are disabled or have special needs

These vulnerable groups are given priority in the application process and determination of benefit amounts. The goal is to ensure those most in need receive the available assistance. Households that meet multiple priority criteria may qualify for additional LIHEAP services and benefits.

Additional Programs

In addition to LIHEAP, California offers other utility assistance programs for low-income households:

The California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program provides discounts on monthly energy bills for qualifying households. CARE offers discounts on gas and electric rates to income-qualified households. Eligibility requirements are similar to LIHEAP. More information is available at https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/industries-and-topics/electrical-energy/assistance-programs/california-alternate-rates-for-energy

The Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) program provides monthly discounts on electric bills. Eligibility is based on household income guidelines and household size. More details can be found at https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/industries-and-topics/electrical-energy/assistance-programs/family-electric-rate-assistance-fera

In addition, some utility providers such as PG&E offer their own financial assistance programs like the Relief for Energy Assistance through Community Help (REACH) program. Information on PG&E’s assistance programs is available at https://www.pge.com/en_US/residential/save-energy-money/help-paying-your-bill/longer-term-assistance/care/care.page

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