LIEAP Program Overview
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
What is Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP)?
LIEAP is a program run by HRDC and DPHHS that helps low-income individuals and households reduce their heating and cooling costs. The Energy Assistance Program pays part of recipients’ winter energy bills (usually directly to the utility provider).
What kind of services does LIEAP provide?
LIEAP will assist a household with their natural gas, electric, propane, fuel oil, wood, and coal costs for the “heating season”. The heating season is generally from October 1st to April 30th, though the department may approve benefits for additional months in certain cases. Benefit payments for utility costs may be paid directly to the utility vendor or to the LIEAP participant. For payments directly to the participant, there must be receipts of the paid utility bills (exception below).
If a LIEAP participant has utilities included in their rent, they must be able to provide rent receipts and their LIEAP payment cannot exceed 50% of their rent.
If a LIEAP participant resides in publicly subsidized housing, they are not eligible for regular benefit amounts. Instead they receive an annual payment of either 5% of what the household’s regular LIEAP benefit amount would be or $25, whichever is greater. Approval for this kind of LIEAP benefit is good for 5 years.
For more info on a household’s maximum reward please see the LIEAP Benefit Award Matrix.
Who is eligible for LIEAP?
If you receive SNAP/Food Stamps, SSI, TANF, or county or tribal general assistance you may be automatically financially eligible, but you still need to apply to receive LIEAP benefits. If your household does not already receive these benefits or you are otherwise unsure of your eligibility, please read the following information on income and resource/asset eligibility.
Even if you make too much money to be eligible for SNAP, you may qualify for LIEAP as it has a high income limit. Households consisting of 1-7 members with an annual combined total income at or below 60% of the state median income are income eligible for LIEAP.
For example, in 2015-2016 60% of the state median income for one person was $21,441, and for each additional household member (up to the 7 people) you would add $6,597. So a family of 4 for 2015-2016 would have to make $41,232 or less to qualify for LIEAP.
Households consisting of 8 or more members must be at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) to be income eligible for LIEAP. In 2015-2016, 150% of the FPL for 8 household members was $61,335. And for each additional member after 8 add $6,240, so a family of 10 in 2015-2016 would have to make $73,845 or less to qualify for LIEAP.
For this year’s LIEAP Income Guidelines, please see DPHHS's LIEAP page.
LIEAP will also evaluate a household’s resources/assets when determining eligibility.
Countable resources include cash, checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposits, value of stocks and bonds, and value of real property that is not the family home. The resource limit for LIEAP is high. In 2015-2016, 1 person could have almost $11,000 in resources and still be eligible. For current info, please see DPHHS's LIEAP page.
Business assets are also counted; they cannot exceed a value of $25,000.
How to apply for LIEAP:
You can apply for LIEAP during the "heating season," between October 1 and April 30. To find out where to apply, you can call the Montana Citizen's Advocate at 1-800-322-2272 or visit a local eligibility office.
LIEAP also provides participants with emergency energy assistance when weather or forces beyond the control of a household create circumstances that threaten a household’s health and safety. To receive emergency assistance, a household must already be eligible for LIEAP and have a present energy related emergency. Emergency assistance payments are limited to $250/year, unless the local LIEAP contractor determines a higher need. Applications for emergency assistance can be filed year-round.
LIEAP also administers a Weatherization Program that provides homeowners and renters with improvements, repairs, and/or modifications to a dwelling to reduce a household’s energy usage. The income limit for this program is high. To be eligible for the Weatherization Program a household must meet the same resource eligibility guidelines as LIEAP (described above) and cannot have a combined annual household income above 200% of the Federal Poverty Line. In 2015-2016, 200% of the FPL for 1 person was $23,540, and for a family of 4 it was $48,500. To see if you qualify,check out LIEAP's Current Limits.
What if I receive LIEAP and disagree with something done?
If you applied for or receive LIEAP and disagree with something done, you have the right to request a fair hearing. Find out your rights to a Fair Hearing.