When times get tough, it’s nice to know that there is help available. Learn how the HEAP program helps people who are struggling with their electricity bills.
What Is HEAP?
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) was created to help people in need with their electricity bills.
Local communities work with public utility companies to distribute these funds.
Since the program is run on a local level, there are slightly different requirements and application materials.
To find out if you qualify for help with your energy bills, you first must make a HEAP application to the energy assistance program in your specific part of the United States.
Here are some tips and advice for applying for and getting Home Energy Assistance:
Apply for HEAP Through Your Utility Company
HEAP funds are distributed at the state level, usually with the cooperation of local public utility companies in that state.
Start by calling your electric or gas utility provider and ask who else you must call or contact in order to receive a HEAP application. This information will be different depending upon which state and city you live in.
Gather Your Documents
Most HEAP applications will require copies of several documents. You should gather these ahead of time to expedite your application:
- Proof of income (the last several payroll stubs)
- The last three to six utility bills for your household
- The names and social security numbers of all household members
- A list of other household expenses
- Social security, food stamps, or any form of public assistance must be reported as income
- Provide receipts for oil, wood for fuel, wood chips, kerosene, or anything else used to heat your home
Submit Your Application by the Appropriate Deadline
Most HEAP applications have to be completed sometime during the summer preceding the winter in which you are asking for help. Start early to insure your application is completed and turned in well before the deadline.
Renters will be required to provide a copy of their lease as well as proof of payment of rent in most instances.
Show Proof of Paid Reconnection Fees
This is one reason you need to start your HEAP application as early as possible. If you need help paying the reconnection fee or deposit so you can complete your HEAP application, you will need plenty of time to investigate other social service agencies to see if you can get help to help pay your reconnection fee.
Applying For Someone Else
Don’t assume you can’t qualify for HEAP just because you can’t personally show up to sign the application. You can send a proxy with a notarized permission letter instead and still get help.
The letter should give you permission to sign for the other person when you submit their HEAP application. Often this is a necessary step for elderly people, people who are chronically ill, or people who are housebound for other reasons.
If you can’t qualify for HEAP for whatever reason, or if you can qualify but you are too late to get help this year, dial 211 or go to 211.org and call the volunteer United Way hotline in your area and explain your situation.
The operator will refer you to various social service agencies and local charities that may be able help where HEAP cannot.
Get Started Now
If you are recently out of work or think you may have trouble paying your utility bills soon, don’t wait until you receive a shut off notice to start asking for help.
Call your public utility and get the start the HEAP application process so you don’t get too far behind. Help is available in most communities, but as with so many things, first come are first served.