As the cold weather sets in, many people have difficulty paying winter heating bills. Companies like Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania have been educating customers about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which offers one-time grants annually to assist with paying home heating bills.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services that provides income-eligible customers financial assistance to help pay home heating bills and emergency assistance to avoid shut-off, restore service or repair heating equipment. Homeowners and renters may be eligible to receive LIHEAP funds depending on household size and income level.
The program provides cash grants ranging from $200 to $1,000 to assist in paying winter heating bills. Also available are crisis grants, ranging from $25 to $600, to assist households without heat or in danger of being without heat.
“At Columbia Gas, we want our customers to be safe and warm this winter, which is why we want our customers to know about the availability of LIHEAP assistance,” said Deb Davis, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania manager, Universal Services. “As a natural gas utility, we are committed to providing our most vulnerable customers with resources like LIHEAP to help with their heating bills. If you or someone you know may be struggling to pay their heating bills, please apply for a LIHEAP grant as soon as possible.”
Eligibility guidelines for LIHEAP change annually, so individuals or families that may not have qualified in the past should reapply each year. The income eligibility limit for the 2018-2019 program is 150 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines. This means that individuals with annual incomes of up to $18,210 are eligible to apply. A family of four can earn an annual income of up to $37,650.
In Pennsylvania, nearly $162 million is available for LIHEAP grants this winter season, and more than 500,000 households across the commonwealth are expected to receive assistance through LIHEAP. Last year, more than 20,000 Columbia Gas customers received assistance.
Individuals in western Pennsylvania can call 1-866-857-7095 to learn more about LIHEAP or can apply online through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Access to Social Service website (COMPASS) at www.compass.state.pa.us. Applications are being accepted through April 12, 2019. LIHEAP funds are limited, so individuals are encouraged to apply early before funds run out.
Columbia Gas also offers a number of programs to assist customers in paying winter heating bills and conserving energy to reduce their bills. Among the available programs are the Customer Assistance Program, which offers affordable payment plans and debt forgiveness; and budget payment plans and the Dollar Energy fund, which provides grants and assistance to customers who need more than CRISIS to restore service or are slightly over the LIHEAP income guidelines.
Columbia Gas WarmWise is a series of energy-saving programs that help identify where a customer’s home is losing energy and provides solutions to start saving energy and money. The WarmWise Low Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP), a free home weatherization program, is designed specifically for customers with low incomes and high gas usage. Through WarmWise Audits and Rebates, eligible customers can schedule a free home energy audit that includes $1,800 in upfront rebates for energy efficiency measures that customers choose to implement. Columbia Gas also offers WarmWise energy efficiency information on no-cost or low-cost weatherization actions, materials and resources.