For many, the winter season is one of cheer and celebration, right up until the cost of heating the home becomes obvious. And every year that nothing proactive is done to improve the heat retention of the home, you can expect an increase in costs as the home becomes less and less energy efficient. The good news is there are programs that can help in more ways than one.
LIHEAP, or Low Income Energy Assistance Program, is designed to help people cover a portion of their heating bill. The program is funded by the government and managed by local entities, with far fewer restrictions than most assistance programs.
Those who manage LIHEAP funds will assess your income as well as your heating bills. If you qualify, they apply funds directly to your account. In many cases, even those who don’t have the heating bill in their name will qualify. You’ll need to make an appointment with your local agency, such as the Council on Aging. If you aren’t sure where to go, contact your utility provider or your township trustee for more specific information. ** Note, this program does not help with shut-off notices. For that, look first to your township trustee, who can direct you to other programs that can help with disconnect notices.
LIHEAP doesn’t stop at cash payments, and those payments aren’t only for the winter months. LIHEAP also offers summer “cooling” payments to take a bit of the sting out of the cost of cooling your home.
LIHEAP also hires contractors who will assess the energy efficiency of your home. For those who qualify, this can lead to insulation installation, newer windows and sometimes even new drywall, with no cost to the consumer.
Some utility companies have programs that can go a long way toward assisting customers when it comes to making their home more energy-efficient or simply reducing the cost of maintaining utilities. For instance, NIPSCO, a popular midwestern utility company, offers LED bulbs at a discount to customers. They also buy back used appliances for far more than you would get at a scrap yard (currently $50 per appliance, with restrictions).
Check with your local utility company to see what sort of programs they offer. Some are required to offer these programs but don’t make it obvious that they exist, so be sure to dig around their website or call the company directly to find out exactly what they offer.
Township or Parish Trustee
Every township or parish has a local trustee. In most cases, that trustee has access to funds labeled as “Poor Relief Funds” and they exist to help those who have fallen on hard times. Normally, this office works in conjunction with other local resources to get you the most help possible. Poor relief funds can be used to help with rent and utilities. Your local trustee will give you the specifics when you contact them.
Whenever you’re applying for assistance for yourself or someone you take care of, be prepared to bring financial documents such as pay stubs or tax returns, as well as a current copy of the bill you’re seeking assistance for and receipts for the bills you or your loved one pay. It may seem like a lot of red tape to get through, but some of these programs can be lifesavers when you’re in a financial pinch.
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