Low-Income Home Energy Assistance:

Observations on HHS's Administration of the Program

HRD-91-119FS: Published: Sep 30, 1991. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) manages the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), focusing on HHS: (1) oversight and review of state grant programs; (2) staffing allocations for LIHEAP; (3) technical assistance for grantees; and (4) required data collection activities and annual report to Congress on states' compliance with statutory requirements.

GAO found that: (1) the Office of Energy Assistance (OEA) routinely conducts and completes application and compliance reviews; (2) OEA conducted 24 compliance reviews of 22 states and 2 Indian tribes during fiscal years (FY) 1989 and 1991, and 14 of those reviews were done onsite; (3) OEA scheduled in-depth compliance reviews for most state grantees about once every 5 years, unless problems or questionable activities warranted more frequent reviews; (4) some potential noncompliance issues can be resolved quickly, but resolution may take several years, especially if the grantee does not agree with the compliance reviewers' findings and recommendations; (5) for fiscal year 1991, OEA was authorized to have 19 LIHEAP staff positions, but as of August 30, 1991, it had only filled 16 positions; (6) it could not determine what direct technical assistance OEA was providing to grantees because OEA did not document its direct, informal technical assistance; (7) Indian tribe grantees generally inquired about basic program topics, while states were more concerned with broader issues, but both state and tribal officials considered OEA technical assistance useful and welcomed; (8) OEA generally has met its statutory mandate to collect data on households served by LIHEAP, the types of fuels they use, and recipient characteristics, and to annually report such information to Congress; and (9) the report to Congress is viewed as useful and meets the needs of grantees and interest groups involved in LIHEAP, and OEA is developing methods to collect additionally requested information on LIHEAP participants and those eligible for but not participating in LIHEAP.

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