Low-Income Home Energy Assistance:

A Program Overview

HRD-91-1BR: Published: Oct 23, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 23, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a state-administered program funded by the Family Support Administration's Office of Energy Assistance.

GAO found that: (1) LIHEAP was the most prominent of several energy assistance programs for the poor; (2) since 1970, federal government energy assistance for the poor has evolved from one-time crisis assistance programs to a continuing program of general assistance for a variety of home energy needs; (3) the federal approach changed from a program administered by the federal government through the states to a state-run block grant; (4) between fiscal year (FY) 1985 and FY 1989, LIHEAP funding dropped steadily from $2.3 billion to $1.6 billion; (5) in FY 1989, 89 percent of LIHEAP funds came from federal block grant appropriations, 10 percent from oil overcharge settlements, and less than 1 percent from states and other nonfederal sources; (6) LIHEAP provided funding for heating, cooling, crisis, and weatherization assistance; (7) households receiving LIHEAP assistance spent 14 percent of their income to meet total home energy costs; (8) one-third of the 6 million eligible households received heating and winter crisis assistance; (9) one-third of households receiving heating assistance had elderly residents and 19 percent had handicapped residents; (10) heating accounted for approximately 39 percent of total home energy costs; (11) the amount of heating costs LIHEAP benefits offset varied by region; and (12) although the federal government placed some limits on state discretion, states continued to have a wide range of options in determining and distributing benefits.

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