The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP, is a federally funded program that helps families and individuals with their energy bills. New Jersey’s program is administered by the Department of Community Affairs/Division of Housing and Community Resources. It provides for heating assistance, emergency crisis assistance and medically necessary cooling assistance. The application period is open from October 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.
Households certified for LIHEAP and/or USF are among those protected against utility shutoffs between November 15 and March 15, in accordance with the Board of Public Utilities Winter Termination Program.
Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 246 which established a six-month grace period on utility shutoffs, until December 31, 2021, “allowing a reasonable period of time during which individuals are protected while they try to address arrearages, including by applying to utility assistance programs”. Utility customers should use this grace period to apply for the expanded safety net programs, such as LIHEAP, USF and other state programs.
The state of New Jersey’s LIHEAP income guidelines are based on 60% of the State Median Income, increased from 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). The gross monthly income limit for the Universal Service Fund (USF) is 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, increased from 185% FPL.
Households not eligible for either of these programs – or not sufficient to greatly reduce their arrearage – may be eligible for a PAGE (Payment Assistance for Gas and Electric) grant, administered by the Affordable Housing Alliance on behalf of the Board of Public Utilities. Help is also available from New Jersey SHARES the statewide nonprofit via a network of more than 250 agencies at more than 300 sites. Weatherization services, promoting energy conservation, are available from Comfort Partners or the Weatherization Assistance Program.
Income limits are listed below for the following New Jersey energy programs: Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Universal Service Fund (USF), PAGE, NJ SHARES, Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), and Comfort Partners.
|Family Size||Monthly LIHEAP Income Limits Effective 10/01/21||Monthly USF Income Limits Effective 10/01/21||Monthly NJ SHARES Income Limits Effective 1/19/21||Monthly PAGE Income Limits Effective 10/01/21||Yearly WAP Income Limits Effective 1/13/21||Yearly Comfort Partners Income Limits Effective 1/15/21|
Other energy programs include:
Universal Service Fund (USF) – a state funded program. Eligibility requirements include: 1) income less than or equal to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. 2) USF applicant must reside at the address provided on their utility account, and 3) an electric and/or natural gas bill more than 2% of household income, or 4%, if electric heat. Benefits are credited monthly to the utility account. Households found eligible for LIHEAP benefits are screened automatically for USF. Applications for USF are available year round. USF credits can be transferred from one address to another so discuss details with the utility company when reporting a change of address.
Fresh Start is a component of the USF program. A household is automatically enrolled in the program if there is a balance of $60 or more on the bill. Under this forgiveness program the arrearage is set aside when a customer is placed in the program. The previous balance will be erased if the customer pays their bill for the next 12 months in full. While USF is administered by the Department of Community Affairs, Fresh Start operates through the investor-owned utility companies. Details are available through the utility company customer service departments.
Lifeline Credit Program is a state funded program available to people at least 65 years of age or disabled and receiving Social Security disability benefits. The income limits for 2022 have been raised by $10,000 to $38,769 for an individual and $45,270 for a couple. Applicants can call the Lifeline/PAAD Hotline at 800-792-9745 or their local County Office on Aging.
Payment Assistance for Gas and Electric (PAGE) is a program established by the Board of Public Utilities to provide relief for low to moderate income gas and electric customers who are experiencing a temporary financial crisis. See their website for a list of affiliated agencies. For more information and details call 732-982-8710.
New Jersey SHARES is a statewide 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides assistance to energy customers with income above government program guidelines but below 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. Applicants must demonstrate a temporary financial need and a history of good-faith payments. Households receiving other benefit programs (LIHEAP, USF, TANF, GA) may not qualify. NJ SHARES is comprised of a network of more than 250 intake agencies. Their toll free phone number is 866-657-4273.
Gift of Warmth is available to New Jersey Natural Gas customers experiencing temporary financial hardship. See their payment assistance page for details.
Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is a federally funded program. It enables the elderly, disabled and low-income persons to weatherize their homes, improve their heating system efficiency and conserving energy. The income limits are set at 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. The program is administered by community based organizations under the auspices of the Department of Community Affairs. See their income guidelines or contact the local Weatherization agency.
Comfort Partners – is a state funded program designed to improve energy affordability for income eligible households. Eligibility requirements include: a household with significant energy use, income within 250% of the Federal Poverty Level or receiving USF, Lifeline, or Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD). Participants receive installation of cost effective energy efficiency measures for their home plus personalized energy education and counseling. New Jersey Comfort Partners phone number is 800-915-8309.
New Jersey Clean Energy Program, administered by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, offers financial incentives, programs and services to New Jersey residents, business owners and local governments to help them save energy, money and the environment. It promotes increased energy efficiency and the use of clean, renewable sources of energy. For more information call 866-NJ-SMART (866-657-6278).
Households that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits – formerly food stamps – may receive heating benefits through information entered at their County Welfare Agency. Households not selected should contact the 2-1-1 Partnership by dialing 2-1-1 or 800-510-3102, the LIHEAP Hotline. Applicants should call these phone numbers rather than their local application agency when checking on the status of their application.
Note: Text in bold show changes from the 2020-2021 season.
Last updated: October 7, 2021
Copyright © 2021 by Michael R. Swayze