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LIHEAP: Key to Keeping All Michiganders Warm

Winters in Michigan are hard on everyone, but low-income families are disproportionately affected. 15 percent of Michigan’s population lives below the poverty line—that’s nearly 1.5 million people, according to the Census Bureau.

The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, plays a crucial role in helping those families make it through the winter safely.

What is LIHEAP?

LIHEAP is a federally funded program that allocates energy assistance funds to each state based on a number of factors. The states then determine how to use that funding to best meet the needs of their low-income households. Michigan’s energy assistance programs take two different approaches, both vital for stretching energy assistance dollars as far as possible. Short-term crisis assistance or longer-term self-sufficiency planning address the various needs of Michiganders who require help affording to heat or cool their homes.

Who is eligible for LIHEAP assistance?

Hundreds of thousands of Michigan families depend on LIHEAP aid, and any Michigander who meets basic State Emergency Relief (SER) eligibility requirements is eligible to apply for LIHEAP assistance. Eligible households include a wide range of Michigan families, from seniors living on fixed incomes to single-parent households with young children to families with two working parents who are underemployed. There is no one type of Michigander who needs help meeting their energy costs.

In addition to direct assistance with energy bills, energy assistance funding is used to support programs that can help Michiganders reduce their overall energy use. The state’s Weatherization Assistance Program, for instance, can help reduce a family’s costs by making a home more energy efficient.

Families can apply online or call the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for more details on the assistance options best suited for their needs.

The future of LIHEAP

Millions of Americans nationwide depend on LIHEAP to stay safe year round. LIHEAP has been around for more than 30 years, but funding has declined significantly since 2012. Today, it is at risk of being phased out entirely as the federal budget undergoes serious belt-tightening. Eliminating the program won’t eliminate the problem, however. Michigan already has many more households in need than current funding levels can cover. Our elected leaders need to make sure they aren’t balancing the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it.