Families that need help in North Dakota with their heating and utility bills may qualify for grants from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This federally funded resource is known as LIHEAP for short and it can provide cash assistance for paying bills and preventing disconnections. The program is often offered with energy conservation services from the federal government weatherization program.
Both of these are paid for by the United States Department of Energy with additional funding from the state of North Dakota. The primary beneficiaries are low income families, in particular those with young children, senior citizens or disabled members of the household. Thousands of residents qualify for support every year.
LIHEAP, or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, is for qualified individuals and families and it can help them with paying for their utility bills during the winter months. Funds can pay for any type of heating source, whether it is oil, electricity, natural gas, propane, or something else. During the occasional summer heat wave in North Dakota there may even be some funds available for paying cooling or air conditioning bills. Individual tribal LIHEAP programs serve families living on reservations in the state of North Dakota. Usually over 10,000 low-income households participate in the assistance program each year.
Federal and state assistance that is issued as part of LIHEAP seeks to make energy more affordable for low income households that spend a large percentage of their income on their utility bills and home energy needs. This generally includes vulnerable households which include very young children, frail older individuals and/or individuals with disabilities. If they do not receive help then these families would normally face serious health risks if they do not have adequate heat their homes during the winter. Or they may be at risk without cool air during the summer.
Another focus is on those “high energy burden households”. This will generally include those North Dakota families with the highest home energy costs and the lowest incomes. Households that fall into this category will also usually face safety risks in trying to cool or heat their homes if they cannot pay their bills.
In order to learn more, or to apply for LIHEAP, you will need to complete an application and/or contact your local North Dakota County Social Service Office. Oftentimes the social service office will advise residents on other financial assistance programs that may be available to them, such as weatherization (see below). The state wants to work with each family to try to give them the support and resources they may need during a difficult period.
Another very important resource is the Department of Energy's Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program. This will attempt to increase the energy efficiency of homes. They can either be rented or owner occupied by low-income persons. This is another federal government funded program and it has been successful at lowering residential energy expenditures across the state of North Dakota. Another benefit is that it will improve the health and safety of an occupant.
There is an application process in place for this as well and income levels will need to be met. They will be based on certain federal government poverty guidelines. Clients can only receive weatherization services one time from the state unless the house was weatherized before 1994 or a change in technology proves cost effective enough to justify reweatherization.
Once enrolled, each household will be visited by a highly trained energy auditor who decides which improvements and conservation measures will be effective for the home. Some examples of the improvements that can be made, all of which are done at no cost for the homeowner, are below.
More general repairs may be provided as well. Low income families, in particular seniors, may qualify for a wide variety of safety and energy conservation repairs to the house structure which are necessary to protect the integrity of any eligible weatherization measures that they are provided.
To apply for either the energy bill assistance or weatherization program you need to call your County Social Service Office. Or interested individuals can dial the North Dakota Economic Assistance Policy Division at (701) 328-2065.
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