Thousands of Iowans who are turning on their furnaces in response to the dip in temperatures this week are wondering how they’ll afford their heating bills this winter. Last winter, more than 95,000 households received help with those bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program – or LIHEAP.
Jerry McKim oversees the program at the Iowa Department of Human Rights. “We’re serving about 45% of the eligible population. That means there are still a lot of folks out there who, for whatever reason, don’t sign up for the program,” McKim said. Many people believe they’ll be able to handle the heating bills early in the winter season, but then struggle in later months as the costs keep climbing.
McKim notes 28% of the people served by LIHEAP are older Iowans and 45% are disabled. “Almost 94% households assisted by this program are not on welfare,” McKim said. “So what we’re seeing, particularly over the last few years with the recession, is first time applicants…because of job loss or something like that.”
In some cases, LIHEAP recipients also qualify for a weatherizing program that helps improve the energy efficiency of their home. Applications for LIHEAP are accepted from November 1st through the end of next April. McKim says some households can apply now.
Those would include eligible households with an older or disabled person. Low-income residents facing a utility shutoff are also encouraged to apply now. A family of four would likely qualify for LIHEAP if the household family income is below $33,525.