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The utility assistance programs that are funded by the state and federal government were created to help low-income residents with their heating and medically necessary cooling bills. Some programs make provisions for emergency heating system services and emergency fuel assistance, while others enable home modifications that result in long-term energy savings.
The programs have income eligibility guidelines associated with them. These guidelines are based upon a figure known as the Federal Poverty Level. Set by the federal government each year, this figure reflects an annual income that is considered to be at the poverty level based upon the number of members in a family and the cost of living.
In many of the programs described below you will see references to the Federal Poverty Level as it relates to each program's income eligibility guidelines.
We have included a table at the bottom of this page that reflects the current Federal Poverty Level set for various family sizes. It includes figures for the different income eligibility guidelines set for each program.
The Home Energy Assistance Program is federally funded and was created to help low-income residents with their heating and medically necessary cooling bills. Up to $2,000 in assistance is available to eligible households through LIHEAP (see below for details) and includes benefits to assist with heating bills and certain emergency needs. Additional funds may be available for medically necessary cooling assistance and heating repairs. To view the 2017-2018 Home Energy Assistance Brochure in English or in Spanish.
LIHEAP (the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) is a federally funded program designed to help low-income families and individuals meet home heating and medically necessary cooling costs. The application period is from October 1 through April 30. Assistance is provided on a first-come, first-served basis so applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as they are eligible. If you are eligible to receive assistance for cooling costs you should apply for this benefit at the same time that you apply for help with heating costs because the application process closes on April 30 and after that date you will not be able to submit an application for assistance until the following year.
To be eligible for LIHEAP benefits, the applicant household must be responsible for home heating or cooling costs, with payments made either directly to the utility company or included in the rent; and have a gross income that falls at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. The tables below give specific gross income maximums for FFY 2017. Persons who live in public housing and/or receive rental assistance are not eligible unless they pay for their own heating/cooling costs directly to the fuel supplier. The amount of the LIHEAP heating benefit is determined by income, household size, fuel type, and heating region. The medically necessary cooling assistance benefit is set at $200, which is applied as a direct credit to an active electric account or issued as a single party check to the client.
An eligible household that heats with natural gas or electricity may have its benefits directly forwarded to its utility company. Eligible households heating with oil, propane or kerosene receive a two-party check in the name of the client and the fuel supplier. Households whose heating costs are included in their non-subsidized rent receive a single party check made out to the eligible client. A household receiving medically necessary cooling benefits also receives a single party check.
How to apply for LIHEAP - The entire application process including the completion of the application, its submission and all associated follow-up, is handled by the local application agency in your area. If you have questions about the program during a time when the agency is not open, dial 2-1-1 for information and assistance. We are open twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year. Residents age 60 or over, or those who are disabled, are permitted to receive and return applications by mail. Others may only apply by mail if permitted by their local application agency.
If you received LIHEAP/USF last year, you are eligible to apply for the program through a process called recertification. The application for those eligible for this process is automatically started within the system. Applicants using the recertification process will be contacted by mail and asked to supply less documentation than new applicants must submit. You will need to bring a copy of the following:
If you have moved since your last application was submitted you will NOT be eligible for this streamlined process but instead will have to submit a new application.
If you are a new applicant or if you have moved since last year you will need to bring a copy of the following documentation with you when you go to apply for this program at your local application agency:
Learn more about LIHEAP and download an application online.
Download the Application Form, Instructions and Required Documents (PDF File)
For more information you may call the toll-free LIHEAP hotline at 1.800.510.3102.
NOTE: Remember, all applications for this program must be submitted to your local application agency. Once your application is submitted it will be processed. If there is a problem with the application you will be notified by mail and you must contact the local application agency that originally submitted your application.
The Universal Service Fund (USF) program was created by the NJ Board of Public Utilities to help make natural gas and electric bills more affordable for low income customers. You may apply for assistance at any time of year.
The FFY 2017 LIHEAP application is also an application for the Universal Service Fund. You apply for two benefit programs at the same time. Eligible households receive a monthly credit benefit towards their gas and electric bills. The program is funded through the Societal Benefit Fund which is supported by rate payers.
To be eligible, a household's gross income must be at or below 175% of the Federal Poverty Level and pay more than 3% of its annual income for electric, or more than 3% for natural gas. If a household has electric heat, it must spend more than 6% of its annual income on electricity to be eligible. Benefits vary between $5/month to $150/month, not to exceed $1,800 a year. Payments are credited monthly to the utility accounts. No money is ever sent to clients. USF benefits are only available to customers of the seven regulated electric (energy) companies in New Jersey which are: New Jersey Natural Gas Company; Elizabethtown Gas Company; South Jersey Gas Company; Public Service Electric & Gas Company; Rockland Electric Company; Jersey Central Power & Light and Atlantic City Electric Company.
If you move, the USF benefits are stopped until you contact your new utility company and explain to them that you are receiving USF benefits. It is the responsibility of the new utility company to associate your USF benefits to the new account. Once this has been done your USF benefit level will be reevaluated. The level of benefits you receive may change because it is in part based upon the history of utility use in your new location.
Because the same application is used for LIHEAP and USF, the process and documentation required is the same. Review the application process noted above. For more information about USF, contact your local application agency, call 1.866.240.1347 or go to the state website.
If you have a balance of $60 or more on your energy bill as you enter the USF program, you may be eligible for additional benefits under the New Jersey Fresh Start Program. The Fresh Start Program is a component of the USF program and is only available during your first year of participation in USF. Fresh Start is a partnership between the customer and USF to forgive past due balances and improve your payment record. Participants must pay current USF-supplemented bill on time and in-full every month and after 12 months of full on-time payments, the pre-USF program overdue balance will be erased. If you are eligible for Fresh Start when you enroll in USF for the first time, you will be automatically enrolled by your energy company and will be sent additional information about how the Fresh Start program works. For more information call 1.866.240.1347.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities funds this program.The program is administered through the Affordable Housing Alliance (AHA). This annual program is intended to provide assistance to low-to-moderate income New Jersey residents who are struggling to pay their electric and natural gas bills.
To be eligible you must:
You can use any one of the following methods to apply for this program:
Documents you will need are listed on this page.
To learn more call 732.982.8710 or visit the AHA PAGE website.
New Jersey Statewide Heating Assistance and Referral Energy Service, Inc. (NJSHARES) - is a non-profit organization which administers an energy-assistance program that assists households who do not qualify for federal or state energy programs and whose income does not exceed 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Each client fills out an electronic application with the assistance of a local community-based organization. Applications are taken by more than 230 participating intake agencies at local sites throughout the state. Eligibility is determined by income and household size. The maximum grant awarded by New Jersey SHARES is $700 for heating and $500 for electric service. Clients heating with electric may receive up to $700 on their electric heat account. Grants are distributed year-round based on funding availability.
Eligibility Guidelines for NJ SHARES
Guidelines for Senior Citizens and People With a Disability:
Applicants 65 years of age or older, with households of one or two members, will be eligible for NJ SHARES if the maximum household income is $70,000 annually or $5,833 monthly. Proof of age is required.
Applicants receiving Federal Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, with households of one or two members, will be eligible for NJ SHARES if the maximum household income is $70,000 annually or $5,833 monthly. Applicants must show proof of Federal SSD benefit.
Required Documentation for NJ SHARES applications:
Documents should be furnished to the intake agency at time of application.
Get Help with your Phone Bill
Verizon's Communications Lifeline - provides discounted local telephone service to low-income residents and seniors 150% or below FPL. For more information, call 1.888.337.3339.
NJ Shares Helps with Water Bills
New Jersey American Water (NJAW) - NJ SHARES administers the NJAW H2O Help to Others Program™. Customers who qualify may receive a grant of up to $500 and/or a discount on their monthly fixed service charge. Their Low Income Payment Program (LIPP) is designed to assist New Jersey American Water’s most economically challenged customers. This aid can be equivalent to as much as 20% of a customer’s monthly bill, depending on eligibility. For both programs, pplicants must be 200% or below FPL, made a good faith payment of $100 within 90 days of applying, and be at risk of shutoff. Applications are taken through the NJ SHARES agency network or online. For more Information, call 1.800.272.1325.
SUEZ Cares - NJ SHARES administers a water assistance program for Suez Water (formerly United Water) customers in need. There is no income guideline for the program. Customers must be experiencing a financial crisis, have to make a good faith payment of $20 within 90 days prior to applying to qualify for a maximum grant of $100. Applications are administered through the NJ SHARES agency network or online. Learn more and apply online here or call 1.888.942.8080.
This utility assistance program is designed to help eligible low-income senior citizens and people with disabilities. It offers $225 to persons who meet the PAAD (Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled) eligibility requirements or who receive SSI. This includes utility customers as well as tenants whose utility bills are included in their rent. Lifeline benefits are provided only for electric and natural gas consumers. For more information about Lifeline visit the NJ Department of Health website or call 800.792.9745.
This program is in effect from November 15 through March 15. The program prevents residential gas and electric customers who participate in the Lifeline, LIHEAP, USF, Work First New Jersey/Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (WFNJ/TANF), Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD), and those who are unable to pay their utility bills due to circumstances beyond their control such as unemployment or illness from having their gas or electric service disconnected during the winter months. The Program is administered by the Board of Public Utilities. To enroll in this program you must call your utility company and explain why you need this protection. For more information on the Winter Termination Program, call 800.624.0241.
This program is designed to improve energy affordability for households who earn less than 225% of the Federal Poverty Level. This program objective is accomplished through the direct installation of energy efficiency measures, personalized customer energy education and counseling. Participants are asked to partner with the program to develop and carry out a household energy savings action plan. Program participants receive all efficiency measures and energy education services free of charge:
For additional assistance, call toll-free at 1.888.773.8326 or contact your local energy provider:
Jersey Central Power & Light: 1.800.207.9276
Atlantic City Electric: 1.800.915.8309
Elizabethtown Gas: 1.800.915.8309
NJ Natural Gas: 1.800.915.8309
South Jersey Gas: 1.800.915.8309
To file online, go to: http://www.njcleanenergy.com/residential/programs/comfort-partners/comfort-partners
Households that receive USF, Lifeline and/or Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD) are also eligible.
The customer must also use the home as a primary residence and be the ratepayer of record with the electric or gas utility.
If your primary source of heat is oil, propane or kerosene, please contact the NJ Department of Community Affairs, Office of Weatherization at 1.800.510.3102 or call the County Weatherization office that serves your area.
This program provides free comprehensive energy conservation improvements to reduce residential heat loss and energy consumption. The LIHEAP application is also an application for the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Universal Service Fund (USF). You can apply for three energy benefit programs at the same time. Applicants for the Weatherization Assistance Program must have a gross annual income that falls below 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Transportation Options - If you need to use public transportation to get to the local application agency, use NJ Transit's Trip Planner to find the best route. If you are disabled and cannot find accessible transportation or if you live in a part of the state that does not have adequate public transportation options, search for transportation resources at NJ Find A Ride.
2017/2018 Federal Poverty Table with Associated Percentages for Program Eligibility
This table reflects Annual Gross Incomes.
|Household Size||Federal Poverty Level||175% of Poverty Level||200% of Poverty Level||225% of Poverty Level||400% of Poverty Level|
|1||$ 12,060||$ 21,105||$ 24,120||$ 27,135||$ 48,240|
|2||$ 16,240||$ 28,420||$ 32,480||$ 36,540||$ 64,960|
|3||$ 20,420||$ 35,735||$ 40,840||$ 45,945||$ 81,680|
|4||$ 24,600||$ 43,050||$ 49,200||$ 55,350||$ 98,400|
|5||$ 28,780||$ 50,365||$ 57,560||$ 64,755||$ 115,120|
|6||$ 32,960||$ 57,680||$ 65,920||$ 74,160||$ 131,840|
|7||$ 37,140||$ 64,995||$ 74,280||$ 83,565||$ 148,560|
|8||$ 41,320||$ 72,310||$ 82,640||$ 92,970||$ 165,280|
|each additional household member||$ 4,180||$ 7,315||$ 8,360||$ 9,405||$ 16,720|
Source: http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines 8.28.17
Research Sources Include:
Tables updated as indicated. Information will be updated as data becomes available.