|Program may help low-income seniors stay warm
Thanksgiving has come and gone, and winter is right around the corner. In fact, a cold weather snap has begun this week for us in Sonoma County. For many seniors, winter means finding a way to keep warm in their homes without eating deep into their budgets. Fortunately, some elder services exist that provide a little help. Among these is LIHEAP.
What is LIHEAP?
LIHEAP stands for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This is a federally-funded initiative that has the goal of helping people in low-income situations find ways to meet their energy bills. Like other elder services, this program is focused on income rather than on age.
The LIHEAP website states that it seeks to make home energy more affordable for two groups of low-income households that have the highest home energy needs:
• Vulnerable households, such as those that include frail older individuals, individuals with disabilities, and very young children. Individuals in these households face serious health risks if they do not have adequate heating or cooling in their homes.
• High-energy burden households, such as those that include individuals with the lowest incomes and highest home energy costs. These households face safety risks in trying to heat or cool their homes if they cannot pay their heating or cooling fuel bills.
Like many federal programs, LIHEAP is organized on the state level; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services oversees the broad LIHEAP service, but each state determines how the service is administered within its borders.
What services does LIHEAP offer?
These services vary from state to state; however, the services below are typically offered through LIHEAP: fuel subsidies; low-cost weatherization and home energy efficiency repairs; and intervention in crisis situations that affect energy delivery.
How to apply
The first thing an applicant must do is find information regarding the LIHEAP office in his or her state. To do this, an individual can:
• Call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) project at 866-674-6327;
• Email NEAR at firstname.lastname@example.org;
• Find the state office at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap-state-and-territory-contact-listing.
After contacting the appropriate state office, the individual will be asked to provide information, which may include some or all of the following: utility bills; proof of income, proof of address; proof of number of people in household; Social Security Card; and proof of United States citizenship.
As with so many elder services programs, it can take awhile to fill out all the appropriate forms and provide the needed information. However, for qualifying individuals, it may be well worth the effort in order to have a warmer, more affordable home this winter (and in future winters.)
LIHEAP is also intended to help people afford appropriate energy-related assistance year round, so those in warmer climates can also benefit from using LIHEAP to stay cool in the summer.
Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.