Programs can help Florida families pay their utility bills, and the main resources are LIHEAP, or the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, as well as weatherization. Federal government grants are provided to non-profit agencies, and the funds are then paid out to lower income households to help them with paying their monthly cooling, heating, and air conditioning bills.
A formal application process was put into place by the Department of Economic Opportunity in Florida. Individuals will be required to provide supporting documentation of their hardship, which includes items such as a social security card and/or photo identification for every member of the household, proof of income, a current utility bill, and also proof of home ownership.
The state of Florida program helps tens of thousands of residents per year through these services. There are three main categories of financial assistance, and they include crisis grants, regular home energy bill assistance, and also supply shortage or weather related assistance. Whether it is a cooling or heating bill, LIHEAP may be able to assist a family in Florida with addressing their costs.
Families that heat with natural gas or propane may be able to receive assistance from the program as well; however this is only available during the winter if the applicant uses those fuel types as their primary source of heat. Also, depending on the funds available, you may able to apply for LIHEAP up to three times a year, and this may be determined by the seasons. If you are enrolled, the local agency that administers the grants will make payments directly to your utility company in the form of a credit payment on your account.
You need to apply at the appropriate community agency within the town or county in which you live. Please keep in mind hours are often limited, and the demand for assistance is high, so the offices may be very busy. Often times an appointment is necessary.
Another related program is the Emergency Home Energy Assistance for the Elderly Program (EHEAP). This Florida program, which also relies on government funds, assists low-income households that have a member who is 60 years of age or older and that is faced with a crisis.
An emergency situation that can be addressed is when someone has a delinquent utility bill, a copy of a shut off notice, or if they just do not have wood or fuel. Qualified households may be provided at least one grant per year, and a normal amount paid is around $600. Payments are made to your utility company, and not the applicant.
In addition to funds for paying bills, the EHEAP program can provide senior citizens in Florida with vouchers to purchase air conditioners, portable heaters, fans, or blankets. The program can also help pay for repairs or replacement to existing cooling or heating equipment, or for re-connection fees. So it is similar to LIHEAP in that capacity.
Low income families with excessive utility bills can look into the Weatherization Assistance Program. This conservation program is paid for by the United States Department of Energy, and grant funds are made available to local governments in Florida, community action agencies, Indian tribes and other non-profit agencies. The objective of this free program, which is often combined with LIHEAP, is to reduce the monthly energy burden and costs of low-income households by improving the energy efficiency of the home.
The program was created to reduce energy usage in the home or apartment. By reducing the monthly utility bills of low-income families as opposed to offering direct cash assistance or grants, weatherization reduces someone’s dependency on public aid.
In order to receive assistance, the applicant needs to meet income limits. Preference for weatherization is given to families with children under 12, senior citizens (60 years-plus) and/or physically disabled residents. Also people with a high energy burden (who spend a large percentage of their income on utilities) may also qualify. On average, weatherization reduces overall energy expenses by almost $400 per year.
Weatherization can pay for some or all of the following. The Florida program can install attic and floor insulation. Updates to your home can reduce air infiltration with weather stripping, caulking, thresholds, window and door replacement, minor repairs to walls, and improvements to ceilings and floors. Solar reflective coating can be installed on manufactured homes, as well as solar screens. The program can also pay for the repair or replacement of water heaters and/or inefficient heating and cooling units.
Some of the energy conservation measures include installing low flow showerheads and pipe insulation on water heater lines; repairing or replacing deteriorated windows or exterior doors; installing water heater jackets; repairing a/c ducts; replacing a/c filters; installing energy efficient light bulbs; and even replacing inefficient air conditioners or refrigerators.
Whether you are applying for weatherization or LIHEAP, all applicants will be required to provide supporting documentation such as proof of income, identification, current utility statements and bills, and more. Call the Florida Department of Community Affairs Division of Housing and Community Development, the Department of Economic Opportunity at (850) 245-7105, or ideally your local community action agency.
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