Taking a giant LIHEAP
For the past several years – hidden behind the gold rush of opportunity that has enabled Chester County to become the richest county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – the county’s invisible population known as the Working Poor has continued to remain vastly underserved and ignored.
The discrepancy is vast and it is real: While the median household income in the county rose from $109,969 in 2021 to $117,232 in 2022 and while the median property value soared to $384,100 last year, the number of county residents living near or below the poverty line teeters on the brink of rising to seven percent. To tack on further insult to this population, every phase involved with the cost of living has continued to climb while their wages have remained stagnant or at best trickled ever so slightly northward.
The greatest gift of Chester County is not measured by its accumulative wealth but by the number of individuals and agencies that continue to wage a battle against poverty in support of the Working Poor who live here, and now, the State’s government is again entering the fray.
Last week, the Shapiro administration announced the renewal of the annual Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally funded initiaitive that helps low-income Pennsylvanians pay their home heating bills to better ensure they are able to stay warm and safe during the cold winter months.
The LIHEAP crisis grant is for people who meet the income limits and are in jeopardy of having their heating utility service terminated, have a broken heating equipment have already had their heating utility service terminated, or who are out of or have less than two weeks’ worth of deliverable fuel such as fuel oil, propane, coal, or wood. The minimum LIHEAP crisis grant is $25 and the maximum crisis grant is $1,000.
During the 2022-2023 LIHEAP season, 312,169 households in Pennsylvania received $125,572,518 in LIHEAP cash benefits, with each household average a cost benefit of just over $400. More than 135,000 households statewide received $98,923,752 in LIHEAP crisis benefits, and these households received an average payment of $688.
While it is understood that this winter’s LIHEAP season will not singlehandedly solve the crisis of poverty in Chester County, it will go a long way to alleviate the indignity of having to endure a winter of discontent.
Available for renters and homeowners, the LIHEAP application period for both cash and crisis grants is open through April 5, 2024. Pennsylvanians can apply for LIHEAP and other public assistance programs online at dhs.pa.gov/COMPASS or by phone at (866) 550-4355. Pennsylvanians do not need to know their own eligibility to apply for these programs. Those who have applied and were denied previously but have experienced a change in circumstances can reapply. To learn more, visit dhs.pa.gov/liheap.