LIHEAP tightens eligibility requirements

    Pennsylvania’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program begins accepting applications for cash grants Monday, but the 2009-2010 version will be scaled back from last season’s.

    Pennsylvania’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program begins accepting applications for cash grants Monday, but the 2009-2010 version will be scaled back from last season’s.

    Listen:
    [audio: 091102sdliheap.mp3]

    LIHEAP’s eligibility requirements have gotten stricter.

    Last year, a family of four earning up to $44,000 dollars could apply for financial assistance, but this year the cap is $33,000. Additionally, the emergency grant program won’t start until January.

    Those changes have angered some critics, including Democratic Congressman and Senate candidate Joe Sestak, but Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman Stacey Witalec says Pennsylvania’s federal LIHEAP funding will likely drop from $330 to $275 million dollars.

    And we have to base our programs on the funds that we know are available, vs. funds that we hope we get later in the season. Certainly if the budget from the feds increases, we will be more than happy to look at our program and see where we can make changes.

    Witalec says DPW research showed most families solved critical problems, like broken heating equipment, through the cash grant program.

    She says people can still apply for an emergency grant if something urgent comes up, pointing out the program will allow case-by-case exceptions to the delayed start.

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