Florida’s climate is unique. The state is known for its year-round warmth, glistening beaches, and perpetual sunshine. That said, temperatures in Florida can quickly skyrocket and make being outdoors uncomfortable. As most people rely on their air conditioners to relieve the sweltering heat, it can cause high energy bills. Depending on the time of year, sometimes energy costs can be too much for some families to bear. Instead of raising your thermostat and unplugging all of your devices, there are tools designed to help struggling Floridians deal with high-energy costs. The Low Income Energy Assistance Program ( LIHEAP) helps families in need of help with energy expenses. Many people are unaware of this unique program and how it benefits them.
If you’re looking for help handling high energy costs, here are a few points on what the Low Income Energy Assistance Program can do for you and your family.
Table of Contents
- Brief History of The LIHEAP Program
- What LIHEAP Means For Floridians
- Eligibility Requirements for LIHEAP
- How LIHEAP Funds Are Disbursed
- What LIHEAP Can’t Do
- What You Need To Apply For LIHEAP
- The Application Process
- How Long Do Applications Take To Process?
- Special Circumstances
- The Final Word on LIHEAP
Brief History of The LIHEAP Program
First implemented in 1981, the LIHEAP program was implemented to help families across the United States struggling with paying heating and cooling expenses for their homes. The program provides billions of dollars of assistance to families each year, helping them to pay for this essential cost.
What LIHEAP Means For Floridians
According to reports, Florida is the most expensive place to live in the United States. For instance, the average cost of utilities in Florida is over $400. With rampant inflation, the slightest increase can be devastating for low-income Floridians. The LIHEAP program can help offset some of these costs, so Floridians don’t have to make sacrifices in other crucial areas.
Eligibility Requirements for LIHEAP
Before filling out an application for the LIHEAP program, it’s essential to understand its requirements to qualify. For instance, you must be a U.S citizen or a legal migrant to be eligible to apply.
Other eligibility requirements for the LIHEAP program include
- Being a resident of Florida
- Being solely responsible for your utility costs
- Having an income at or below 60% of the state of Florida’s median income
- Being a part of other Florida programs that help low-income families (SNAP, TANF, SSI)
How LIHEAP Funds Are Disbursed
If you are approved for LIHEAP program benefits, you’ll have to arrange your budget around disbursement dates and do your best to schedule payments around those periods. Although disbursement dates can vary, recipients can generally expect payments to be made within 15 days of being due.
Also, payments depend on the funds available in your county, allowing you to apply for LIHEAP up to three times a year.
What LIHEAP Can’t Do
While the LIHEAP can offer Floridians much-needed help with energy expenses, the program does have a few limitations.
First, your ability to get benefits is contingent upon the funds available in your area. If you can get LIHEAP funds for one month, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you can receive a disbursement the next time you apply. This is also true for those who previously qualified in another state and have since moved to Florida.
Another stipulation is that although the LIHEAP program can help with many things, it cannot pay for other services, such as telephone, water, and sewer.
Other resources may be able to assist if you are seeking help with these additional services.
What You Need To Apply For LIHEAP
Before you start the application process, you’ll want to ensure that you have all the required documentation to ensure the process moves as smoothly as possible. As with many other applications, you’ll need documentation verifying your citizenship status, including a social security card or driver’s license.
Also, you’ll need to have a recent copy of your utility bill on hand. Other documents you may need include
- Proof of income
- Photo ID of all other house members
- a copy of your final utility termination notice
The Application Process
The application process for the LIHEAP program is relatively straightforward. Once you’re sure you have all the required documents, go to LIHEAP’s website to find a provider in your county. You can check to see if the online application is available. If not, you’ll need to visit a local branch and fill out the application.
Also, you’ll need the social security cards of everyone in your home. But if you don’t have the social security cards on hand (or can’t find them), then using their social security numbers on the application will do.
How Long Do Applications Take To Process?
Once you’ve gathered all the documents you need and completed your application, you’ll have to hang tight while processing your application.
From start to finish, the review process can take up to 30 days from the time you submit it. Also, this doesn’t include non-working days such as holidays or weekends.
Some people are more reliant on keeping their power on. For instance, the elderly and those with disabilities are vulnerable, and high energy costs or having their power turned off could lead to life-threatening situations.
If this is the case for you, some options may help. First, dialing 211 can help you find agencies in your area that can assist you. Also, visiting your energy assistance provider can help. But, if your power has been turned off and you find yourself in a life-threatening emergency, make sure you call 911 to get immediate medical attention.
The Final Word on LIHEAP
As inflation continues to be an issue throughout the country, the Low Income Energy Assistance Program helps many Floridian families through times of crisis. By partnering with energy service providers, the LIHEAP program helps keep families out of the dark by assisting them in taking care of their energy costs.
Although applying as soon as possible is crucial to have a chance for benefit approval, receiving assistance depends on the funds available in your county, and these aren’t always guaranteed.
But, for those that qualify and make it through the application process, the LIHEAP program can provide much-needed relief to the most vulnerable Floridians in their time of need.
If you’re looking for additional help in Florida, check out our guide for Assistance & Grants for Single Moms in Florida.