Having a roof over your family’s head is essential. However, let’s face it –you need more than just the basic necessities. You need heating and cooling, electricity, water, sewage service, and more. These utilities make modern life more comfortable. In some cases, they’re essential to your quality of life and health.
Of course, paying for those utilities can be incredibly hard, particularly if you’ve lost hours at work, or the utility company has raised their rates. Thankfully, there are ways that you can find money to pay down back utility bills and help get yourself back on track.
Options to Help with Utility Bills
In addition to the program we’ll discuss later in this chapter, there are several things you can do to help reduce your utility bills.
•Contact the utility company and ask about forbearance programs or emergency needs programs they may offer.
•Contact your local social services agency to find out if there are supplemental funds or programs that could help you.
•Ask your electric, gas, or oil provider about budget billing programs or solutions for customers on fixed incomes (if applicable).
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
There is no set amount available. This is a needs and income-based program, so the amount awarded will differ from family to family.
•What Are the Limitations and Terms?
The only limitations here include the eligibility requirements, which can vary from state to state and even county to county, and the fact that the money can only be used for utility bill payments.
•How Do You Apply for This Grant?
You’ll need to apply for LIHEAP through your local office. If you’re not sure where that office is located, you can use the online locator tool here to find it quickly. Many states have an online application process –if yours does, you can find the application through the LIHEAP Clearinghouse, complete it, and submit it online.
Note that applying and being approved does not necessarily mean that you will see any money, though. Only about 20% of those who are approved for the LIHEAP program receive any funds. Once the annual funding has run out, no more money is available until Congress authorizes the next annual budget.