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The application period for the home heating assistance program known as LIHEAP opened on Nov. 1.

The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps families who meet income requirements to pay heating bills and winterize their homes on a first-come, first-served basis.

The program also provides crisis grants up to $500 for families in immediate danger of losing heat.

Crisis situations include utility termination, an empty fuel tank or danger of being without fuel in less than 15 days.

LIHEAP also considers broken heating equipment or leaking fuel lines to be a crisis.

The program determines eligibility based on annual income and household size. Families whose income puts them at 150 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for heating assistance grants.

That means that a single person earning no more than $18,090 can receive a heating assistance grant. A family of five with a total household income of $43,170 or less is eligible.

Weatherization eligibility requirements are 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Those eligible may pick up applications at the Luzerne County Assistance Offices in Wilkes-Barre or Hazleton. An online application can be found at www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/heatingassistanceliheap/.

Program funding comes in the form of block grants each year.

This year, LIHEAP is starting with an $18 million balance carried over from last year and a $178.6 million allocation from the federal government.

The program assists 350,000 to 400,000 Pennsylvania households each year.

UGI Utilities, which delivers both natural gas and electricity, assists its customers in applying to LIHEAP when needed.

For anyone who fears they may not be able to pay a heating bill, UGI spokesman Joseph Swope said it’s always better to call than to wait.

“Call us. We don’t want to turn you off. We want to keep your service on,” he said.

PPL Electric Utilities also works with agencies to offer income-based relief for burdensome utility bills.

The assistance application period remains open until April 6. Call the LIHEAP hotline with questions, 866-857-7095.