Less money for LIHEAP available this year

Written by Scott Detrow, StateImpact Pennsylvania Reporter | Nov 2, 2009 9:55 AM

(Harrisburg) -- The state's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program begins accepting applications for cash grants today, but the 2009-2010 initiative is scaled back from last season’s. LIHEAP’s eligibility requirements have gotten stricter. Last year, a family of four earning up to $44,000 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 million to $275 million. "We have to base our programs on the funds that we know are available versus funds that we hope we get later in the season, "she says. "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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