Policy 4.5.1:  Making Energy Assistance Payments

Policy 4.5.1 (A):  Payments Are Made For Three Reasons

Contractors can make payments to vendors for:

  1. Costs incurred for heating energy usage.
  2. Required deposits and other incidental charges related to restarting or maintaining heat.  This does not include maintenance or enhancement of furnaces or other heating mechanisms. 
  3. Non-heating costs included in a total utility bill (e.g., water, sewer) which must be paid to ensure continuing heat.

Some households have primary heating systems that require a supporting energy source, for example, an oil furnace which requires electricity to run the fan and/or pilot light. If there is a supplemental energy source, payment may be made to vendors of both energy sources. (A supplemental energy source is any energy source, other than the primary source of heat.)

NOTE:  A maximum of 49 percent of the benefit may be paid to the supplemental or supporting energy vendor, at the local program contractor’s discretion.

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Policy 4.5.1 (B):  EAP Benefits Provided By Two Methods

EAP benefits will be made to an eligible household as a payment to the household's heating energy vendor (oil company, electric utility, gas company, etc.), on behalf of the household, or through direct payment to the applicant.

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Policy 4.5.1 (C):  Payment To Vendors Requires Signed Agreement

Payments will not be issued to a vendor unless the vendor has signed a Home Heating Energy Vendor Agreement.

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Policy 4.5.1 (D):  Vendor Payment is Option of First Choice

Contractors will issue EAP benefits to vendors whenever possible. But there are circumstances when direct client payment is justified, such as:

  1. The sole vendor of the household's primary heating source refuses to sign a Vendor Agreement (this refusal should be documented).
    NOTE:  If there are available LIHEAP vendors for the household's primary heat source, then the household benefit should be paid to a LIHEAP vendor and not directly to the household.
    EXCEPTION: If the LIHEAP agency determines there is a hardship created by using an available vendor, then the LIHEAP agency may choose to provide a direct payment to the household.  2/14/14
  2. The household pays for all heating costs as a portion of its home rental payment (lease agreement or statement from the landlord is required as documentation).
  3. The energy bill is not in the name of a household member; for example, if the bill is in the name of the rental property owner.  If this is done, however, it is important that records of any payment made contain information that establishes a clear audit trail to the applicable client file.  Contractors should inform the applicant any refund will be returned to the customer of record.
  4. The household has previously paid heating energy bills and the applicant declares paying those bills has created a financial hardship for the household.  In these instances, a cash payment is made in the amount of heating energy bills incurred after September 30, for which documentation is provided showing proof of payment.
  5. The household's primary fuel source is wood and the contractor cannot identify a wood vendor who can meet the requirements of the Vendor Agreement.
    Policy 4.7.2, Working With Wood Vendors 

When a direct payment is necessary, the contractor is encouraged to use a two-party check.  The applicant's file should include a statement of the reason direct payment was necessary.

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Policy 4.5.1 (E):  Lines Of Credit Are Acceptable

Payments can be made to an energy vendor to establish a line of credit for a household when:

  1. The household and the vendor agree to this form of payment. 
  2. The amount of the credit will appear on a billing statement to the customer.

The vendor will handle the credit as they would any credit on a customer account. 

NOTE: Contractors will not enter into line of credit arrangements with wood vendors.  Wood vendors will not receive payment except for reimbursement for wood already delivered.

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Policy 4.5.1 (F):  Last Payment In A Series?  Notify Client

If a contractor makes a series of vendor payments on behalf of a household, the contractor must notify the household when the final payment has been made and the total amount paid to each vendor.

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Policy 4.5.1 (G):  Unclaimed Credit Balances resulting from an awarded EAP benefit payment 

The vendor must treat the credit balance as if it were paid out of the low-income customers own pocket.  If the customer or his/her estate cannot be located, the funds must be reported to the State of Washington Department of Revenue in accordance with State law as described at the following website:

SEE:  Department of Revenue - Unclaimed Property 

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