LIHEAP Season Extended; Crisis Grants Available

As one newspaper article puts it, there is good news and bad news on the LIHEAP front. The good news for those who need LIHEAP, which stands for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, is that the season has been extended until April 2, 2010 (originally it was scheduled to close on March 15). Additionally, the crisis grant season has now been opened, making accessible additional funding for those in emergency situations such as broken heating equipment, lack of fuel, or danger of heating shut-off. Governor Rendell also announced an additional payment of LIHEAP funds in February for those who have already qualified for the service.

The bad news is that LIHEAP is still reaching fewer people this year due to a lower eligibility level compared to previous seasons. In 2008, families earning below 210 percent of the Federal Poverty Level- or about $44,520 for a family of four- could access the program. This year, only families earning below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($33,075 for a family of four) can access it. As reported in December, 11,523 PGW customers have received LIHEAP grants this year, only 1/3rd the amount of customers with grants in 2008. Peco reported "that 4,000 of its customers had received grants by Dec. 1, down from 19,000 a year ago."

Additionally, with so many households newly unemployed, there may be many eligible families who have never before used LIHEAP.

To see if you qualify, visit the Department of Public Welfare's LIHEAP site. Even though the season has been extended, there is a limited amount of funding available, so please apply as soon as possible. DPW's recommendation for the fastest way to apply is through the COMPASS website. For more information, you can contact your local county assistance office or the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095, Mondays through Fridays. Individuals with hearing impairments may call the TDD number at 1-800-451-5886. Individuals living in Philadelphia interested in being prescreened for LIHEAP and other programs may call PathWays PA at 215-387-1470, and those in Delaware County can call PathWays PA at 610-543-5022.

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