When determining a household’s eligibility, states consider households' total shelter costs, including the cost of utilities.
Since actual utility costs are often hard to determine, states can use Standard Utility Allowances (SUAs), which are standard amounts that represent low-income household utility costs in the state or local area. SUAs may be used in lieu of the household's actual costs when determining eligibility and benefit amount.
States update SUAs annually to reflect changes in utility costs. Different states may use different terms to describe these allowances.
In most states, using SUAs is mandatory. In states with optional SUAs, a household can claim actual utility expenses, but must provide documentation for all claimed costs.
SUAs vary based on household size in Arizona, Guam, Hawaii, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. SUAs vary based on location in Alaska and New York.