Eligible families can now apply for up to $1,500 in aid to pay for heating bills

Philadelphia Gas Works at 1601 S. Broad Street. (Nathaniel Hamilton for WHYY)

Philadelphia Gas Works at 1601 S. Broad Street. (Nathaniel Hamilton for WHYY)

Low income families may now apply for federal aid to help pay off their natural gas bills during the winter months.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services is encouraging eligible utility customers to begin applying for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program starting Monday, October 18 to receive up to $1,500 in assistance for the 2021-2022 winter season.

LIHEAP is a federal program that helps eligible families pay for their heating bills through a cash grant. It comes in the form of a one-time payment sent directly to the utility company to be credited on the customer’s bill. These grants range from $500 to $1,500 based on household size, income, and fuel type.

They do not have to be repaid.

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The average annual residential heating bill is $1,100, according to Philadelphia Gas Works, meaning LIHEAP has the potential to significantly reduce heating costs for qualifying applicants. With nearly a third of Philadelphia households under the poverty line, as many as 138,000 of its customers could qualify for LIHEAP.

Last year, PGW says just 82,000 low-income households that it serves qualified for the grant, leaving a significant portion of qualifying customers who did not apply.

But this year is projected to be 30 percent more expensive, according to the Energy Information Administration, which reports that nearly half of U.S. households that warm their homes with natural gas can expect higher bills.

“PGW encourages eligible customers to apply now since funding is first-come-first-served,” said Denise Adamucci, vice president of Regulatory Compliance and Customer Programs at PGW. “Unfortunately, each year, a significant number of eligible households do not apply for LIHEAP and do not receive the financial relief they need.”

In an effort to get the word out, Philadelphia City Council is also promoting the federal program on social media.

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Families can apply for LIHEAP and more information regarding eligibility guidelines online.

The grant program is expected to close on May 6, 2022.

Additional aid

LIHEAP isn’t the only aid available to low-income customers. Crisis Assistance is an additional federal grant of up to $1,200 for which income-eligible customers may apply. PGW says customers without utility service or who have received a 10-day shut-off notice can apply for both Crisis Assistance and LIHEAP.

“With LIHEAP and Crisis, as well as PGW’s payment assistance programs, customers have many options to manage their natural gas bills and maintain service as we head into the colder months,” said Adamucci.

Customers who receive LIHEAP or Crisis grants who need further assistance may also apply for the Utility Emergency Services Fund, a privately funded grant which PGW matches up to a maximum of $1,500. This aid is for income-eligible customers who are in danger of having their services canceled, or for service that has already been terminated. PGW says this grant was designed to pay off customers’ unpaid utility bills.

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