HARRISBURG, PA — On behalf of Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker, Public Welfare Secretary Feather O. Houstoun recently announced that Pennsylvania's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is now accepting applications for the 2002-03 winter heating season.

"With colder weather approaching, I urge all families who need home heating assistance to contact their local county assistance office for a LIHEAP application or more information," Houstoun said. "Families don't have to be on public assistance or own their own home to qualify."

The federally funded LIHEAP helps low-income households pay for a variety of home heating fuel sources and furnace repairs in the winter. It is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW).

Houstoun said $93.6 million is expected to be available for this year's program, which will serve approximately 350,000 households.

"This year, DPW has set a later deadline to apply for both LIHEAP cash and crisis grants," Houstoun said. "Families whose income is at or below 135 percent of the federal income poverty level now have until March 27, 2003, to apply."

Applications for LIHEAP are available at DPW County Assistance Offices, local utility companies, and community service agencies, such as Area Agencies on Aging or Community Action Agencies.

The cash grant program is designed to help families pay their home heating bills. Cash grants are based on income, family size, type of heating fuel, and heating regions. In addition to proof of income and household size, applicants will have to provide a recent bill or a statement from their fuel dealer stating the type of fuel they use and their acceptance as a customer.

This year, a family of four with an annual income of up to $24,435 can qualify for the program.

Crisis grants of up to $300 are given to families with heating emergencies, such as mechanical breakdowns or unexpected fuel shortages. The crisis component also runs through March 27, 2003.

In most counties, individuals seeking crisis grants should contact their county assistance office.

For more information about LIHEAP, individuals can call DPW's free information line at 866-857-7095, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Publication date: 12/02/2002