INDIANAPOLIS - As cold weather moves in, state agencies are working to make sure Hoosier households know how to apply for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program if they think they might need some help heating their homes through the winter.
LIHEAP is a federal program designed to help low-income renters and homeowners, and in Indiana, households making at or below 60% of the federal poverty level are eligible. For a family of four, that's slightly less than $52,000 a year.
Anthony Swinger, director of external affairs for the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, said it's so important that people stay warm.
"We know that it's going to be an expensive winter heating season, at least based on the projections we've seen so far," he said. "That's why it's important to be preparing now and to take steps."
He said many utilities also have what's known as "budget billing" or "level pay" programs that allow customers to pay the same amount each month, so the increased need for heat during coldest months doesn't disrupt peoples' monthly budgets.
Indiana has a moratorium on utility shutoffs for LIHEAP-eligible households between Dec. 1 and March 15. It includes people who already are receiving assistance and those who have not yet received funds but whose application has been processed. That's why Swinger recommends applying sooner rather than later if you think you may fall behind on the power bill.
"The moratorium is designed to make sure that there's a protection in place for the most vulnerable in our communities," he said, "and that's the reason why you need to either be receiving LIHEAP funding or have been found to qualify for it for the moratorium to apply."
He said it's also important to make sure your heating system is upgraded and working as efficiently as possible to keep your bills down. That means making sure filters and vents are clean; working to caulk, weatherstrip and seal drafty doors and windows; and to open blinds and curtains during the day to take advantage of the natural heat from sunlight.
Lily Bohlke, Producer