LIHEAP Rules Require Social Security Numbers and Protect Deployed Servicemembers
Community Action Programs continue to help low-income Iowans pay home heating bills with "LIHEAP" or Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Iowa law protects families who qualify for LIHEAP with a "winter moratorium" on shutoffs of natural gas and electricity. For eligible families, gas or electric cannot be shut off for nonpayment from November 1 through April 1 every year.
What are some of the rules?
- A person applying for LIHEAP must prove everyone living in the home has a valid Social Security number. Even young children in the home must have a Social Security number.
- Rules protect active-duty service members and their families from utility shutoffs.
How do you prove everyone has a Social Security number?
One way is to bring each person's Social Security card.
- It is important to bring the original card (not a copy); AND
- Bring a card for every member of the household when you apply for LIHEAP.
What if a person has a Social Security number but does not have his or her Social Security card?
- Bring letters from Social Security with the name and Social Security number of any person who does not have a Social Security card;
- Bring a payroll stub with the employee's Social Security number would also work; OR
- Other ways may also work to prove a valid Social Security number.
The goal is to keep people not eligible from getting LIHEAP benefits. This rule may also mean if even one person in the home is not a "documented" citizen or immigrant with a valid Social Security number, then no one in the home can get LIHEAP.
How does the law protect families of deployed military service members?
- If one "head of household" is a deployed service member, utility service to the home cannot be shut off during the soldier's deployment and for 90 days after.
- As soon as the service member know when he or she will be deployed, the gas and electric cannot be shut off.
- Service members cannot have gas or electricity shut off during any time of the year they are deployed, or for 90 days after. Shutoff protection is not limited to November 1 through April 1 like the winter moratorium for LIHEAP-eligible families.
- Any utility bills due at the time of deployment are still owed. The rule only prevents shut offs due to nonpayment.
How do you prove a person is being deployed?
- Give the utility a copy of the deployment letter.
- Either the service member or other head of household living with the service member can provide proof of the deployment.
- To be safe, give proof of deployment to the utility before the gas or electric is shut off.
What if utility service to the service member's house has already been shut off?
The utility should turn the service back on as soon as it gets proof of deployment.
If the utility refuses to turn service back on, the service member or other adult member of the home should get legal help right away.
Iowa Legal Aid helps low-income people with problems getting or keeping utility service. Utility law is complicated. Special training in poverty law helps Iowa Legal Aid lawyers protect rights of consumers and find remedies for utility problems.