Winter can be a difficult time for many low-income families, but for those who are elderly, winter can be a struggle. For seniors and the disabled, not being able to pay heating or electric bills can be life-threatening. Many seniors need help with bills in addition to other types of assistance, such as a senior citizen discount on utility bills.
Read on to learn more about different types of programs to help with heating costs in winter and senior utility assistance, and who each program is for.
Utility Discounts for Seniors
In the state of New Jersey, there is no discount just for the elderly or seniors but for low-income seniors needing help with heating bills and other bills, there are several choices. The LIFELINE program in New Jersey is for utilities, but you must meet certain income requirements. If you are single, your income cannot exceed the requirements of the program. As these change yearly, you must contact LIFELINE at 1-800-792-9745 for more information. Married or partnered couples can also apply, but their joint income must not exceed requirements.
Other requirements include being a New Jersey resident over the age of 65, or a disabled person over 18 who received Social Security Disability benefits. This is one of the few programs that offer an electricity discount for seniors or help with heating costs for the disabled.
Another program specific to New Jersey that offers heating bill help is the New Jersey Statewide Heating Assistance and Referral for Energy Services (NEW JERSEY SHARES). To qualify for this program, you must have exhausted all other resources and still have outstanding energy bills. You must also have made some recent payments toward your bills. This program is for all low-income households, not just for seniors needing help. You can reach NEW JERSEY SHARES at 1-866-657-4273 to find out more about heating cost assistance.
Lastly, a program that can help with heating in winter is the Universal Service Fund (USF). This program is slightly different and is dependent upon how much of your yearly income goes toward heating costs. You can apply at any point during the year and USF can help with heating costs in winter to help lower them. You can find out more by calling 1-800-510-3102.
Government Programs for Low-Income Seniors
There are some federally- and state-funded programs that can help low-income seniors with energy and heating costs. Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program available in NJ through the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs. Unlike offering a discount or reduced rates, low-income seniors and other individuals can get help with heating bills and assistance from local companies (such as fuel companies) that participate in the program. For instance, if you qualify, then the state pays the fuel company directly for your oil bill, which can help many with senior utility assistance. A similar program is the Lifeline Program, which also offers financial help for seniors by the way of covering electric and heating bills.
Additional seniors and disabled persons who qualify may apply for the Winter Termination Program. If you have a health condition and/or you are disabled and must have electricity, your electric cannot be shut off due to nonpayment between the dates of November 15th and March 15th. However, it is a good idea to apply for other assistance programs if you qualify for the Winter Termination Program, as it does not cover the other months out of the year.
Senior Utility Assistance: Other Programs
Seniors, the disabled, and other low-income households may qualify for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). This program helps with costs in winter permanently by offering weatherization for older, drafty houses or other buildings that need weatherization. This program is offered by the U.S. Department of Energy.
If you are a senior or disabled person in crisis and need emergency senior utility assistance, you can call the national number for emergency assistance at 1-866-674-6327 to find out what might be available in your community, or visit the National Council on Aging website for information on Energy Assistance Benefits