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Grants & Assistance For Utilities

Utility bills are a major financial burden on many American families. Millions of poor Americans use over 10% of their income for energy costs, and in some cases that can soar to over 50%.[1] Add that to the high cost of housing, food, and transportation, and you have a recipe for serious financial stress. The danger of utility bills, of course, is that many people decide to put one off for a month, thinking they'll be in a better position to pay, and soon find themselves behind and facing disconnection.

Emergencies like job loss, a medical event, and even unscheduled car repair can quickly leave low-income families buried in bills and threatened with the loss of vital services. To make it worse, many low-income Americans live in older houses or apartment buildings that do not use energy efficiently and don't have the money for improvements.

If you find that you or a loved one currently needs help paying for utilities, you may be able to find assistance from federal grants or private organizations. There are federal and private options that include free money from the government to pay bills, as well as private charities that also offer programs to help.

First, let's look at government agencies and private charities that provide financial assistance to help pay bills. You'll find a brief explanation of the program and charity, as well as contact information. After this section, we've broken our guide into different types of assistance you may be looking for, which includes various organizations that help with utility bills of that category. You'll find links to agency websites and application pages at the end of this article.

US Department of Health and Human Services
The US Department of Health and Human Services offers several programs that can help low-income families pay energy costs. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is specifically for energy expenses and can assist families with direct cash grants paid directly to utility companies, along with energy crisis assistance and home repair.[2] Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides more general assistance to financially stressed families. These programs are not administered directly by the HHS, so you will need to contact your state-level administrative board.

US Department of Energy
Many families can lower their utility costs by making basic home repairs and upgrades. The Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) provides low-income families with assistance to help them make their homes more energy-efficient, improving their quality of life and reducing monthly costs. The program provides needed repairs to 35,000 homes every year, and beneficiaries save an average of $283 a year after the repairs.[3] If your bills seem higher than they should be, there's a good chance that you are wasting energy without knowing it, especially if you live in an older residence. If you're in that situation, WAP is worth a try.

Federal Communications Commission
Communication is a necessity in the modern world, but phone and internet costs can be a burden. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) runs a program called Lifeline, which helps low-income families gain access to much-needed phone or internet service free or at a reduced price. You're limited to one connection per household. If you're receiving SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance, or Veterans Pension and Survivor's Benefit, or if you're a Native American living on recognized Tribal Land, you're likely to qualify. Beneficiaries have their phone or internet payment reduced by a minimum of $9.25 per month.

Social Security Administration
The Social Security Administration (SSA) operates the Supplement Security Income (SSI) program, which helps people who are elderly, disabled or have little to no income meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. This program is not specifically aimed at utility bills, but if utility spending is eating up more than 10% of your income, you may qualify, and the assistance will certainly be useful!

Private Charities
Some private charities operate in a limited local area. Check with your local city, state, or town government to discover if any charities exist in your area that can assist you with certain utilities. You may also want to consider inquiring with local churches, which may have a charity arm that exists to help members of the community, even those who are not members of the church.

The following private charities operate nationally, with local branches across the US:

The Salvation Army is one of the largest charity organizations in the US. The Salvation Army offers several different services for those seeking help with bills and housing. The Salvation Army has local branches across the US.

Love INC is a Christian organization operating in many cities across the US. Love INC's mission is to help struggling individuals escape some of the trappings of poverty. Assistance programs include emergency bill payment.

Charity Navigator is a website that lists thousands of different charities across the U.S. You can browse the website in search of local charities that may offer you assistance to find places that help with electric bills or general emergency help with utility costs.

Types of Utility Bill Help
Here's a quick breakdown of which programs and agencies or organizations may be able to help with particular utility bill problems.

Phone
You can find help paying phone bills, either in the short term or long term, depending on your need. For phone help, consider the following options:

FCC Lifeline program
Charity Navigator
Love INC
Supplement Security Income (SSI)

Water
Water is an important resource. You may have difficulty finding organizations designed to help pay water bills. Nevertheless, consider seeking help with water bills using the following options:

Salvation Army
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Love INC
Charity Navigator
Supplement Security Income (SSI)

Heating or Gas
There are multiple ways to obtain assistance for emergency heating situations. Heat during the winter is considered an essential for life. Many organizations provide support to help give heat to homes for needy families. Your best options include the following:

Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Love INC
Salvation Army
Charity Navigator
Supplement Security Income (SSI)

Ventilation and Air Conditioning
During the summer months, excessive heat can lead to dangerous situations. If you need help taking care of cooling for your house, emergency aid may exist. Consider the following options:

Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Love INC
Charity Navigator
Supplement Security Income (SSI)

Light
If you need basic assistance to help keep the electricity on, many of the organizations listed may be able to aid you. Your options may include:

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Love INC
Charity Navigator
Supplement Security Income (SSI)

Contact Details
Here's a list of the contact websites for the programs and organizations discussed above. In many cases, you'll be prompted to fill in your state or location so you can select the office or program that serves your area. Good luck!

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
Lifeline
Supplement Security Income (SSI)
Salvation Army
Love INC
Charity Navigator