PITTSBURGH, OCT. 31, 2008 – State Sen. Wayne Fontana announced today that the Pennsylvania Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, will open on Nov. 3 for individuals and families who need help paying their heating bills this winter.

LIHEAP helps low-income people pay their heating bills through home heating energy assistance grants and crisis grants.

“With the decline in the economy and the continual rise in utility bills, more hard-working families are having difficulty paying their heating bills,” Fontana said.  “Many families are left in the cold during winter months, and that is unacceptable.  I strongly encourage anyone having trouble paying their bills to take advantage of this valuable, reliable program.”

New allocation of federal funds has allowed for the expansion of LIHEAP eligibility so that now, a family of four with an annual income of up to $44,443 can qualify for assistance. Participants do not need to have an unpaid bill to receive home heating energy assistance.

Cash grants are distributed based on income, family size, type of heating fuel, and region.  Additional grants may be available if there is an emergency situation where an individual is in jeopardy of losing heat. These crises include broken heating equipment, unexpected fuel shortages, or termination of utility service.

Assistance is available 24 hours a day in a crisis situation. For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare online at www.dhs.pa.gov/, or call the Allegheny County assistance office at 800-851-3838.  Individuals can also call the LIHEAP hotline at 866-857-7095.