Financial Help For Those In Need
Aside from mortgage and rent, a large portion of your paycheck most likely goes toward your utilities. Having gas, water, and electricity is essential for the average persons daily life, but unfortunately, there are some who struggle to make their payments each month. Luckily, there are a number of government assistance programs that are geared toward helping people offset the cost of keeping their households running.
For the most part, these programs were established to help those who would otherwise have trouble making enough to pay for their bills. People who qualify for these government programs usually fall in one or more of these categories:
- Low Income
- Cancer/Medical Patients
If you do not fall under any of these categories, but are still struggling to keep up with payments, you may be eligible for a temporary or emergency program that that will help you get back on your feet. Whatever the case, here are some government backed programs that can help you better afford your utilities each month:
1. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
Every state offers some form of the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP or HEAP). This program was established for families that meet the income requirement and are faced with the threat of having their power shut off or are low on and cannot afford more fuel, heating oil, propane, or other heating source. LIHEAP helps those who qualify by:
- Offering bill payment assistance
- Providing replacement or repair of heating source
- Purchasing new heating equipment
- Providing payment for emergency shelter for those in unlivable conditions
Since these programs are offered at the state and municipal levels, it would be best to look into what is available where you live. An Office of the Administration for Children and Families helpfully provides a map and contact list for the main LIHEAP office of each state. These agencies can inform you on what you qualify for and what documents and information you need to apply.
2. Heating Repair Replacement Program
In conjunction with LIHEAP and other assistance programs, the Heating Repair Replacement Program (HRRP) is offered as an emergency based program for those with broken, unsafe, insufficient, or non-repairable heating systems with no other options to fix or replace it. Homeowners who qualify for the program receive financial help with either the maintenance of their heating system, or the purchase of a new system. Since the funding for this program is limited, qualifications are stricter and full funding isnt always available. Top priority is usually given to families with children, the elderly, and the disabled.
3. Low Income Payment Program
For those struggling to keep up with their water bills each month, the Low Income Payment Program (LIPP) can help. Like the other utility bill assistance programs, LIPP has an income requirement and is available for those facing the threat of having their services shut off. This program helps those eligible better balance their finances by providing payment plans and, in some states, offering cash grants. How much you receive will depend on your income, the size of your household, and how much water bill assistance you need.
4. Weatherization Assistance Programs
The government also funds weatherization and other energy conservation programs for both renters and homeowners. As opposed to the previous programs that offer financial support, these programs provide free home improvements to cut down on the consumption of energy or heat, which lowers monthly bills. Organizations that offer these programs use government funds to provide clients with energy saving improvements and services that can include but are not limited to:
- Insulation of walls, roofs, attics and/or floors
- Repair or replacement of heating and/or cooling unit
- Sealing or glazing doors and windows
- Sealing and repairing ducts
Weatherization programs have been known to reduce a clients heating and energy bills by an average of 35% and save them around $250 to $480 a year. The services and eligibility of the program will vary by location, so make sure to check with your local organization to see if you qualify.
5. Temporary Assistance Programs
Some state and local public health agencies and community organizations may also offer temporary or emergency assistance to people who do not qualify for other government programs, but still need help with their utilities payments. Eligibility and the type of assistance will vary by organization, but most likely will depend on your income, location, size of family, age, disability, and degree of emergency.
New York, for example, offers Safety Net Assistance (SNA) to single adults, childless couples, families living with alcohol or drug abusers, and other eligible persons who are unable to work or whose job doesnt pay enough. SNA provides cash assistance for a maximum of two years to help pay for expenses for those who are currently in an urgent need.
On top of these government backed programs, you may also be able to work out payment plans, payment extensions, or other forms of financial aid by working directly with your utility providers. Just remember, the important thing to do if you need utility bill assistance, is to find out all the options available where you live and research the ones you qualify for. This way you can find the best help available and keep your life running as smooth as possible.