It’s been a wild winter so far–temperatures in the low 60s one day and dropping to freezing the next. For people barely making ends meet, those rare warm days are a welcome reprieve from a season of high heating costs.
When money is tight, a household’s budget is at the mercy of the winter weather. Those handful of warm days can bring just enough relief to purchase other household essentials such as groceries or medications, while a long stretch of cold weather may force some to choose between other needs and heat.
If that scenario sounds all too familiar to you or someone in your life, the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, commonly called LIHEAP, might be able to help. The program is administered locally by Clark Public Utilities. It offers households with total incomes up to 125 percent of the federal poverty level assistance with their heating bills, regardless of how they heat their homes.
“The program is fuel blind, meaning that all type of fuels — electric, natural gas, wood, oil, propane, and others — are eligible for financial assistance if the household meets the other qualifications,” Clark Public Utilities Customer Care Manager Gretchen Alexander said. “LIHEAP also offers homeowners assistance to improve their home’s weatherization and make repairs to malfunctioning heating systems.”
“Instead of leaving people in a cycle of high winter heating bills that force them to seek assistance, those upgrades and repairs can fortify a home against the elements and offer long-term relief both in terms of comfort and cost,” she added.
LIHEAP grants are given based on income, household size and typical heating costs. Grants can range between $100 and $1,000, but the average is about $375. The program is designed to help with part of, but not all of a home’s heating costs.
There are some common misconceptions about LIHEAP that discourage people from applying. Some incorrectly believe that they have to be behind on their heating bills in order to qualify. Some also wrongly think they have to have children in the household, be on social security or some other fixed income source in order to qualify. Neither is true.
Clark County residents can find out if they meet basic program requirements by calling 1-855-353-HEAT (4328) toll-free. If they do qualify, they’ll receive an appointment that will evaluate their eligibility for LIHEAP, as well as other utility and community assistance programs.
Knowing that many community members don’t speak English fluently, the utility offers interpretation services. It also offers a visual app to interpret sign language between hearing-impaired customers and employees. Customers need only make the request. To get the process started, call Clark Public Utilities at 360-992-3000, representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or visit the utility website at ClarkPublicUtilities.com.
“Right now we have many times available on our calendar for both phone and in-office appointments. But those spaces tend to fill pretty quickly so folks shouldn’t wait to call and schedule a time,” Alexander said. “The sooner we hear from customers the sooner we can begin connecting them with available assistance.”
Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to email@example.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.