Author: Libby Perl, Specialist in Housing Policy
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), established in 1981 as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (P.L. 97-35), is a program through which the federal government makes annual grants to states, tribes, and territories to operate home energy assistance programs for low-income households. The LIHEAP statute authorizes two types of funds: regular funds (sometimes referred to as formula or block grant funds), which are allocated to all states using a statutory formula, and emergency contingency funds, which are allocated to one or more states at the discretion of the Administration in cases of emergency as defined by the LIHEAP statute. States may use LIHEAP funds to help low-income households pay for heating and cooling costs, for crisis assistance, weatherization assistance, and services (such as counseling) to reduce the need for energy assistance. The LIHEAP statute establishes federal eligibility for households with incomes at or below 150% of poverty or 60% of state median income, whichever is higher, although states may set lower limits. Available federal information regarding use of LIHEAP funds and households assisted is dated. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) releases annual LIHEAP Reports to Congress, but the most recent report available is from FY2010. In its FY2016 budget justifications, HHS reported limited preliminary LIHEAP data for FY2012. Of funds expended for heating, cooling, crisis assistance, and weatherization, 57% of funds went to pay for heating assistance, 8% was used for cooling aid, 24% went to crisis assistance, and 11% was used for weatherization. (Note that these percentages do not account for administrative expenses or services to reduce the need for energy assistance.) Also in FY2012, an estimated 6.6 million households received an average of $374 in heating assistance for the year.