November 25, 2003
ELIGIBILITY FOR ENERGY ASSISTANCE
By: Helga Niesz, Principal Analyst
You asked for information on energy assistance programs, specifically, who is eligible for assistance and the amount of money participants can have in the bank or stocks they can own.
Low-income people who need help paying their heating bills this winter can turn to two state-administered, federally funded programs: the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) and, if there is sufficient federal funding this year, which is not yet clear, the Contingency Heating Assistance Program (CHAP). They must meet specific income and asset requirements to qualify. People who do not meet the requirements for government assistance but are having an energy crisis, may qualify for the nonprofit Operation Fuel Program.
CONNECTICUT ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CEAP)
The CEAP program, administered by the Department of Social Services, but funded primarily through federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) block grant funds, helps pay winter heating bills for people participating in welfare programs and other qualifying low-income people. A household is considered automatically income-eligible for CEAP if all its members participate in Temporary Family Assistance, State Supplement to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled, Refugee Cash Assistance Program, or the Food Stamp Program.
Income Limits. Households may qualify foe CEAP if their incomes are at or below 150% of federal poverty guidelines, based on the number of people in the household (for example, $ 13,470 annual income for a household of one, $ 18,180 for two, $ 22,890 for three, $ 27,800 for four, and higher limits for larger households). Households with at least one elderly person age 60 or older can be eligible if their income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines (for example, $ 17,960 for a one-person household and $ 24,240 for a two-person household). Income eligibility is determined by annualizing the household’s income for the four weeks immediately preceding the application, or by reviewing actual income for the past 52 weeks if that is more accurate.
Asset Limits. CEAP has a liquid assets test for people not on welfare programs who meet the income test. The asset limit is $ 10,000 for homeowners and $ 7,000 for renters. But people with more assets could still be eligible if the household meets the income limits and a combination of income and excess assets does not put the household over the income limit. “Liquid” assets are those readily convertible into cash, including savings and checking accounts, bonds, stocks or shares, certificates of deposit, and individual retirement accounts (which only count if they are in the name of a household member aged at least 59½).
Applying for Help. People interested in applying for this assistance, can call 211 – the state’s Infoline to obtain the name and location of their closest community action agency, which accepts applications. More details can be found at the Department of Social Services website.
http: //www. dss. state. ct. us/svcs/energy/
Eligibility and benefit amount charts:
http: //www. dss. state. ct. us/svcs/energy/eligible. pdf
http: //www. dss. state. ct. us/svcs/energy/chart2. pdf
http: //www. dss. state. ct. us/svcs/energy/brochure. pdf
CONTINGENCY HEATING ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CHAP)
If the federal energy block grant funds eventually appropriated for this year are sufficient, the state may implement the CHAP program (as it has done in January of the past two years). CHAP provides heating help to people who are over the income limits for CEAP, but whose annual gross
incomes are under 60% of the state median income. This would be $ 25,745 for a household of one, $ 33,667 for two, $ 41,589 for three, $ 49,410 for four, and higher for larger households. Asset limits are the same as for CEAP.
OPERATION FUEL AND LOCAL FUEL BANKS
Operation Fuel is a private, non-profit organization that gives temporary emergency energy assistance to people who are not poor enough to qualify for government assistance, but who are in crisis. A network of 61 fuel banks (community action agencies, town social services agencies, nonprofit organizations, and religious organizations) voluntarily take applications for the program.
To be eligible, most families must have incomes between 151 to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. There are no specific asset limits. More details can be found at: http: //www. operationfuel. org/index2. htm and http: //www. larcc. org/pamphlets/utility_energy/energy_assistance_for_low. htm.