TRENTON – The state announced yesterday that the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs has launched a new season of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for residents across the state. Eligible New Jersey households are encouraged to apply.
“LIHEAP provides a crucial safety net for our neediest citizens and helps them focus on other necessities such as food, medication, and housing,” said DCA Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III. “The DCA and its partnering community-based organizations are prepared to help as many households as possible again this year.”
LIHEAP is a federally-funded program that assists low-income households with their heating bills, and provides emergency heating system services and emergency fuel assistance. Program funding is administered through the DCA’s Division of Housing and Community Resources. Income eligible residents can apply through select community-based organizations. To find the nearest organization accepting applications, people are encouraged to visit www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dhcr/offices/localagencies.html or call 800-510-3102 (LIHEAP).
LIHEAP program applications may be submitted now until April 30, 2014. The average LIHEAP benefit for a household is approximately $400 per season and it generally takes 4 to 6 weeks to process a properly completed application. This past season, the program was able to assist more than 290,000 households.
To be eligible for LIHEAP benefits, households must be responsible for home heating or cooling costs, either directly or included in the rent; and have a gross income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Persons who live in public housing and/or receive rental assistance are not eligible unless they pay for their own heating/cooling costs directly to the fuel supplier. The amount of the LIHEAP heating benefit is determined by income, household size, fuel type, and heating region.
The LIHEAP application also serves as an application for the Universal Service Fund Program, which is state funded and administered by the Division of Housing and Community Resources. USF helps low-income households pay for their electric and natural gas costs. LIHEAP eligible households may also be eligible to receive USF assistance.
Applicants that apply will only need to apply once for both programs. To be eligible, a household gross income must be at or below 175% of the Federal Poverty Level, and pay more than 3% of its annual income for electric, or more than 3% for natural gas. If a household has electric heat, it must spend more than 6% of its annual income on electricity to be eligible.
If an applicant has a balance of $60 or more on their energy bill as they enter the USF program, they may be eligible for additional benefits under the New Jersey Fresh Start Program. The Fresh Start Program is a component of the USF program and is only available for the first year of participation in USF.
Fresh Start is a partnership between the customer and USF to forgive past due balances and improve payment records. If the applicant pays their current USF-supplemented bill on time and in full every month, after 12 months of full on-time payments, the pre-USF program overdue balance will be forgiven.
If applicants are eligible for Fresh Start when they enroll in USF for the first time, they will automatically be enrolled by their energy company and sent additional information about how the Fresh Start program works.
For more information on LIHEAP and USF, visit www.energyassistance.nj.gov or call 800-510-3102 (LIHEAP).