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Economy & Business

Energy Assistance Program Opens for 2011-2012

The Low Income Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, is now accepting applications for the winter months ahead. Pennsylvania has $135 million dollars that will go to qualifying households to help with heating utilities or so-called crisis grants for things such as emergency repairs to heating systems.

"A household of four with an income of 33,525 a year is eligible to receive LIHEAP benefits. Those benefits range from a cash benefit from $100 to $1,000, and a crisis benefit from $25 to $300," said John Coleman, Vice Chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission.

Cash grants are sent directly to the recipient's utility company. Crisis grants go to households in which there is danger of being without heat.

Thousands apply for LIHEAP assistance each year, and demand has been growing steadily over the last few years. That trend is expected to continue this year.

"Unfortunately, I think economic conditions suggest that there is going to be a higher demand this year than there was last year for LIHEAP dollars. So I expect we'll see more applicants this year than we did last year," said Coleman.

Coleman said the challenge is making sure the allotted federal funding lasts throughout the winter months. With demand for assistance on the rise, LIHEAP is a competitive program, so officials are urging people to apply for help early. People are also urged to lower their home-heating costs by properly insulating and keeping thermostats at a reasonable temperature.

Residents can apply for a LIHEAP grant online here.