Section 808 - Energy Assistance
Q. Should the regions send a special notice to the State agencies that are currently exempting a portion of their AFDC or GA grants as energy assistance advising them when this provision is to be implemented and the proper notification requirements for households that will receive a reduction in benefits due to the increase in countable income?
A. We expect the regions will do this.
Q. How did this section change existing energy assistance policy?
A. It makes the following changes in the treatment of energy assistance:
- It eliminates the exclusion for energy assistance provided as part of the grant funded by Title IV-A of the Social Security Act;
- It eliminates the exclusion for State or local energy assistance provided under State or local laws unless no assistance can be provided in cash;
- It allows an exclusion for one-time State or Federal payments for weatherization or emergency repair or replacement of a heating or cooling device; and
- It eliminates the specific exclusion for the portion of third-party general assistance housing payments provided for energy or utilities.
Q. Are payments under both the regular and crisis components of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Act (LIHEAA) excluded?
A. Section 808 excludes any payments or allowances made for the purpose of providing energy assistance under any Federal law (other than part A of title IV of the Social Security Act). Section 808 also contains a specific exclusion for one-time weatherization or emergency repair or replacement of a heating or cooling device. The LIHEAA excludes all home energy assistance payments or allowances. Therefore, if the payment is for energy assistance, weatherization, or emergency repairs or replacements it is excluded.
Q. In general, what energy assistance payments count and what payments do not count under a State's general assistance (GA) program?
A. All State assistance is counted as income, except (1) one-time payments for weatherization and emergency repair or replacement of a heating or cooling device and (2) assistance provided as a third-party payment under a State or local GA program that by law cannot be provided in cash.
Q. If a local welfare office buys fuel oil for a client through a voucher system, can it be excluded?
A. If the payment is funded by State or local general assistance, the payment would be counted unless (1) it is not anticipated and the household is prospectively budgeted or (2) by law the assistance cannot be given in cash.
Q. How is a State-funded emergency assistance payment to be handled when that payment is issued to cover an energy expense?
A. In general, State-funded energy assistance is counted as income unless it is a one-time payment for weatherization or emergency repair or replacement of an unsafe or inoperative furnace or other heating or cooling device, as provided in section 5(d)(11)(A) of the Food Stamp Act; a payment that could not be anticipated for a prospectively budgeted household; or a vendor payment provided by a program that is prohibited from giving cash assistance by State law.
Q. Are State or private emergency program payments to prevent utility shutoffs considered to be energy assistance? Can this amount be prorated over the heating season?
A. State or private emergency program payments to pay a household's heating or cooling expense would be considered energy assistance. Vendored private energy assistance is excluded as provided in regulations at 7 CFR 273.9(c)(1)(vii). Energy assistance may be prorated over the heating or cooling season the payment is intended to cover, in accordance with 7 CFR 273.10(d)(6).
Q. Federal or State one-time assistance for weatherization is excluded as energy assistance. How is weatherization defined?
A. We do not plan to define "weatherization." The State agency should apply the definition used by the program providing the assistance.
Q. Is weatherization a shelter cost or a utility expense?
A. Weatherization is not an allowable shelter (or utility) cost for purposes of the excess shelter deduction.
Q. How is a second weatherization or emergency furnace repair payment budgeted?
A. If the second payment was made on an as-needed basis, rather than as a regular periodic payment, it would be considered a one-time payment and would be excluded. We plan to address the issue of two payments that are intended to cover a one-time expense in the regulations.
Q. Does Section 808(a) regarding energy assistance apply to HUD payments?
A. Yes. To the extent that HUD payments are for energy, or utility expenses, they are excluded from income for food stamp purposes.
Q. There is an income disregard for a one-time payment or allowance under a Federal or State law for the costs of weatherization or emergency repair or replacement of an unsafe or inoperative furnace or other heating/cooling device. Does "one-time" refer to once in the certification period? Can this payment or allowance be paid in more than one payment?
A. This issue will be addressed by the regulations.