With experts now predicting the U.S. economy to go into slowdown in 2024, it is no surprise that we are starting to hear more about job cut announcement by big companies. While that is no doubt bad news for all of us, lower-income individuals and households who are living from paycheck to paycheck could be especially hard hit.
For them, the possibility of job loss could be frightening. What if I can't afford things that my kids need? What happen if I am not able to pay the rent and the next utility bill on time? -- These are questions that tend to be on the top of their mind in times like this.
If you are a resident of Oklahoma and find yourself in a similar situation, no need to panic. In the state there are plenty of resources available. This guide will explain how you can access benefits offered by programs such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). We will also touch on other utility help available to you.
The Main Electric Bill Assistance Oklahoma Residents Can Access
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally-funded program that provides financial assistance to eligible low-income households to help with their home energy costs. On the state level, the program is administered by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS).
Assistance with heating (winter) and cooling (summer) bills are the two seasonal components of the program. Another is the Energy Crisis Assistance Program (ECAP), which provides emergency funding to low-income households throughout the year.
Eligibility and Application Process for LIHEAP in Oklahoma
Like most federal assistance program, there are a few requirements you must meet to qualify for LIHEAP
- Be a U.S. citizen or legally admitted immigrant.
- Be a resident of Oklahoma who are in need of financial assistance with home energy costs.
- Meet specific income guidelines: For example, the maximum gross income should be at or below $2,137 per month for a household of two, and $3,250 per month for a household of four.
- Have full responsibility for paying the cost of energy bills for the primary home heating source.
An even easier way to meet the requirement is if you or anyone in your household participates in other government benefit programs, such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), SSI (Supplemental Security Income), or Medicaid. Qualification for these programs may automatically mean that you meets the eligibility requirement for LIHEAP.
For there're Native American individuals in your household, you can also apply for the program through their tribe, federal government or the state, though you cannot receive assistance for the same program from both during the same federal fiscal year.
Applying for LIHEAP Financial Assistance
To apply for the seasonal support provided by LIHEAP in Oklahoma, you must pay attention to the open enrollment period, which can vary slightly from year to year depending on the receipt of available funding. This year, winter heating applications has been closed at January 12, 2024, while the open enrollment dates for summer cooling applications is expected to be June 18, 2024.
Once we are in the open enrollment period, you can apply either online through OKDHSLIVE.org or over the phone at (405)522-5050. Based on experience, if you do have internet access we recommend that you apply online as the wait time for phone application can be frustrating!
How LIHEAP is Helping People in Oklahoma
LIHEAP has benefited eligible households in Oklahoma in many ways, and here are some common impacts the program have made in the state:
LIHEAP offers financial assistance to eligible households to help cover the costs of heating and cooling their homes, which can be crucial or even life-saving during periods of extreme temperatures.
Preventing Energy Service Disruption and Other Crisis
With the help to applicants on the payment of their energy bills, LIHEAP helps prevent utility service disruptions for those facing financial difficulties
In addition, it also provides crisis assistance to households facing emergency situations, such as the risk of having their utilities disconnected. This ensures that vulnerable individuals and families can access immediate help during urgent circumstances.
Priority for Vulnerable Groups
LIHEAP prioritizes assistance to vulnerable groups, including the elderly, disabled individuals, and households with young children. This focus helps address the unique needs of these populations.
In addition to direct financial assistance, LIHEAP may offer weatherization services to improve the energy efficiency of homes, which include measures such as insulation, sealing drafts, and upgrading heating and cooling systems.
Education and Outreach
LIHEAP programs often include educational initiatives to raise awareness about energy conservation and provide information on energy-efficient practices. This helps households manage their energy consumption more effectively.
LIHEAP contributes to building stronger communities by supporting residents in need. By assisting low-income households with their energy bills, the program helps create more stable living environments.
Additional Resources for Utility Assistance in Oklahoma
In addition to LIHEAP, there are other programs and resources in Oklahoma that may provide utility assistance or related supports for lower income households. They include other government-funded programs as well as those set up by private sector or NGOs. Here are some of the options:
Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
WAP is another federally funded program that helps low-income households improve energy efficiency in their homes. Eligible individuals may receive weatherization services such as insulation, air sealing, and energy-efficient upgrades to reduce energy consumption and lower utility bills.
Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) Energy Assistance Program
OG&E, the state's main energy supplier, offers energy assistance programs to its customers facing financial challenges, which may include payment assistance, budget billing options, and information on energy-saving practices.
Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) Customer Assistance Programs
PSO provides various customer assistance programs, including payment assistance, budget billing, and energy-saving tips. The company works with customers to find solutions during times of financial difficulty.
Community Action Agencies
Community Action Agencies in Oklahoma may offer utility assistance programs as part of their broader services. These agencies often collaborate with local communities to address the needs of low-income individuals and families.
The Salvation Army may provide energy assistance to eligible individuals and families facing financial hardships. Assistance may vary and can include help with utility bills during emergencies.
Utility Bill Payment Assistance through DHS
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) may offer utility bill payment assistance to eligible households. This assistance is often provided as part of the agency's efforts to support families with limited incomes.
Exploring Additional Assistance with EASY Wireless
For those who have utilized programs like SNAP, which may have helped you qualify for LIHEAP, there's an additional opportunity with EASY Wireless.
You might also be eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) through EASY Wireless, offering FREE Monthly Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data Cell Phone and Data service. This program is designed to help keep you connected without the financial burden of an expensive phone bill.
Learn how to eliminate your monthly cell phone bill, saving you on average $50-$100 monthly at EASY Wireless.
A Step Towards Financial Stability
If you find yourself struggling with energy costs, consider applying for LIHEAP. And remember, additional assistance through programs like the ACP with EASY Wireless is also available, ensuring you stay connected in today's digital world. Explore these opportunities and take a step towards easing your financial pressures.