Review of Selected Aspects of Low Income Energy Assistance

HRD-80-115: Published: Sep 15, 1980. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1980.

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GAO reviewed the 1980 Low Income Energy Assistance (LIEA) Program, and examined those Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) recipients who were financially assisted even though they did not pay fuel bills. The North Carolina LIEA program was also examined, with particular emphasis on energy assistance payments to AFDC recipients in public housing and payments to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients.

GAO found that in North Carolina about 86 percent of the State's $16.1 million energy assistance program was used to pay AFDC recipients. Payments made to AFDC recipients were based on family size but did not consider responsibility for energy costs. GAO contacted the largest housing authority in North Carolina and determined that about 30 percent of its subsidized housing units included one or more AFDC recipients. The 1980 LIEA program also established categorical eligibility for SSI recipients. Payments were made to SSI recipients without regard to their living arrangements or responsibilities for energy costs. Energy assistance payments were made to: (1) more than one individual living at the same residence; (2) individuals living in subsidized housing who were not responsible for home heating costs; and (3) individuals in certain group living facilities where the extent of increased energy costs for heating, or their responsibility for these costs, was not clear. The recently enacted 1981 LIEA program and regulations published by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) address most of the problems under the 1980 program. The 1981 program will be administered by States according to their plan, as approved by HHS. Payments can only be made to, or on behalf of, eligible households rather than individuals, to offset the rising costs of home energy that are excessive in relation to household income.

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