LIHEAP payments in PA hit a snag as Congress still holds back 10% of funding

15 March 2024- Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh today outlined the Shapiro Administration’s plans to continue distributing LIHEAP assistance grants to Pennsylvanians while the Commonwealth waits for the remaining 10 percent of federal funding for the program currently being held back by Congress.

Starting today, March 15, 2024, DHS will only issue LIHEAP Crisis payments and will pause issuing LIHEAP Cash payments until the additional funding is received. DHS is prioritizing LIHEAP Crisis benefits to ensure the individuals most at risk do not lose essential home energy services. DHS will continue to accept and process all applications for LIHEAP and is not planning to shorten the LIHEAP season, which remains open through April 5, 2024.

LIHEAP is a federally funded program administered by DHS that helps with home heating bills through Cash and Crisis grants so Pennsylvanians with low incomes can stay warm and safe during the winter months. This change to LIHEAP disbursements is necessary because the United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is not authorized to distribute the remaining 10 percent of FFY 2024 LIHEAP funding to states until Congress passes HHS’s appropriation legislation. The 10 percent gap in funding totals approximately $21 million of LIHEAP funds for Pennsylvania.

“LIHEAP is a resource that helps many of our fellow Pennsylvanians make ends meet by providing Cash or Crisis grants directly to households or their utility provider,” said Secretary Arkoosh. “I want to assure people that this temporary funding gap will be resolved, and the LIHEAP season is not closed. Once we receive the remaining funds, we will continue to assist individuals in need until the end of the season. If you or someone you know needs help or could benefit from this program, I still encourage you to apply for LIHEAP today.”

LIHEAP is funded through a federal block grant with 90 percent of the entire block being paid to states at the start of each season. Traditionally, congressional approval for the remainder of LIHEAP funds is granted at the end of January and DHS receives the funds in February or early March. During this contingency period, DHS will closely monitor the current balance available to ensure funds will sustain all approved LIHEAP Crisis payments until the remaining 10 percent of federal funding is received. DHS will also continue to process LIHEAP Cash applications, but payment issuances and approval eligibility notices will be held.

LIHEAP Cash and Crisis payments for most households are distributed directly to a household’s utility company or home heating fuel provider in the form of a grant. Households do not have to repay assistance. The LIHEAP Crisis grant is for people who meet the income limits and are in jeopardy of having their heating utility service terminated, have broken heating equipment, have already had their heating utility service terminated, or who are out of or have less than two weeks’ worth of deliverable fuel, such as fuel oil, propane, coal, or wood. The minimum LIHEAP Crisis grant is $25, and the maximum Crisis grant is $1,000. Once federal legislation is passed, DHS will issue approved LIHEAP Cash grants; the minimum LIHEAP Cash grant is $300, and the maximum Cash grant is $1,000.

The 2023-2024 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) opened on November 1, 2023, and is scheduled to close April 5, 2024. As of March 2, 2024, a total of 449,605 LIHEAP Cash applications and 98,657 LIHEAP Crisis requests were received, 269,541 LIHEAP Cash applications and 63,567 LIHEAP Crisis requests were approved, and 18,323 Cash applications and 350 Crisis requests are pending.

During the 2022-2023 LIHEAP season, 312,169 households statewide received $125,572,518 in LIHEAP Cash benefits, and these households received an average season benefit of $402. More than 135,000 households statewide received $98,923,752 in LIHEAP Crisis benefits, and these households received an average payment of $688.