The primary energy assistance programs in South Carolina are LIHEAP and weatherization. Financial assistance and conservation can be provided to low income families. The assistance provided by these federally-funded programs can help eligible low-income households in South Carolina meet their home cooling or heating needs by providing direct cash assistance for paying utility bills and free energy bill saving and efficiency updates to homes.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pays for the program and provides funds to all states, including South Carolina. If you need help with paying your utility or air conditioning bills, then call your local community action agency. Those non-profit centers process applications and distribute funding to the needy and low income.
A onetime payment can be made directly to your utility company on your behalf from the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. While any working poor, struggling or lower income family can apply, households with an elderly or senior person age 60 and above, someone who is disabled, or families with a child will receive funding before anyone else. Households applying for aid must have at least one U.S. citizen or in some cases can have a non-citizen who meets the eligibility criteria. Applicants also need to meet a variety of income tests. LIHEAP is available in South Carolina until funds are exhausted.
Applicants need to have recent copies of your electric bills, proof of current gross income or a payroll stub, and a copy of the shut-off notice from your energy company if that is why you are applying. Once the minimum income eligibility criteria is met by the applicant, priority for any grants is given to vulnerable households, which is often those with the lowest incomes that pay a large percentage of household income for home energy bills.
The program has a subsidy payment that can be made, as well as a crisis service component. When funds are available, the program can help with summer cooling costs and air conditioning bills.
Cash grants available can help pay utility bills and home heating costs for which a beneficiary is responsible for paying. The government program can provide either direct payment to your energy providers, or funds can be used to pay an undesignated portion of your rent. Usually the grant will show as a credit on the account you have with the utility company. Very rarely, if ever, will the grants from LIHEAP be paid directly to the applicant.
As funding allows, a crisis component also operates during the winter or hot and humid South Carolina summer months. This will only run until all funds provided to the state are expended. Clients for any type of emergency aid must meet the income and other criteria, and they also need to be in a crisis situation involving imminent loss of heat or no longer have the ability to keep their home cool during the summer. For example, applicants must provide a utility disconnect notice. Or they need to have four or fewer days worth of propane, fuel oil, kerosene, or wood available. Crisis assistance may be offered to those who have received an eviction notice citing unpaid rent, however this applies to those residents whose utility bills are included in their rent.
Sometimes the summer cooling bill assistance program operates as well, and it is available to qualified households. It can help them by offering resources such as a free fan or air conditioner, or provide them with a one-time cash payment. New or gently used air conditioners may be provided for low income households where residents are at risk for serious health problems or medical conditions that may be associated with excess heat. Any money paid out from LIHEAP during the summer will be to the household's electric provider.
In order to be eligible for a free air conditioner, the applicant can’t have access to any other resources, such as their own fans or air conditioners. They also need to meet other conditions, such as have a member of the home that is younger than 6, someone needs to have a verifiable health condition or disability that requires cooling, or there needs to be a senior citizen in the home.
Some of what can be paid for may include late or reconnect fees, utility bill assistance (electric, heating and cooling), and deposits for new residence and delivery fees. Equipment offered may be HVAC purchase, repair or replacement or an air conditioner.
Community action agencies across South Carolina also administer the weatherization assistance program as well. This government service can also help improve the quality of life for low-income families, particularly people with disabilities, the elderly, and children by improving the energy efficiency and conservation measures of their homes, even including rental or mobile homes. The U.S. Department of Energy oversees this at the federal level.
Weatherization is a permanent program that is administered at the state level by the SC Office of Economic Opportunity (803-734-0662). It assists low-income families with reducing their utility and electric bills by making their homes more energy efficient. So this has a second benefit of reducing someone’s need for cash grants from LIHEAP. Funds are used to improve the energy efficiency of homes, and updates include insulation, heating/cooling system tuning, CFL bulbs, and much more.
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