I just saw this press release and was quite surprised that the federal government has a program to pay electric bills for low income families.

The “Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program” (AKA LIHEAP) “helps eligible families pay for home heating and cooling costs, as well as helping weatherize eligible families’ homes.”

LIHEAP just got a $101 million hot cash injection in their veins to “provide states, territories, tribes and the District of Columbia with additional assistance to pay heating and cooling costs.”

This $101 million isn’t the first pile of cashola LIHEAP has been given. LIHEAP got “$4.5 billion… and $490 million in emergency contingency funds… earlier this year.”

That’s $5,091,000,000 for LIHEAP this year alone. That’s a lot of money.

Anyhow, LIHEAP is saying “We are releasing these funds at a time when many Americans are struggling to find jobs and make ends meet as our economy begins to recover. These funds will help many families and seniors heat their homes in the coming winter,” said David A. Hansell, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families.

To qualify, “an eligible household’s income must not exceed the greater of 150 percent of the poverty level or 60 percent of the State median income (In FY 2009, 75 percent of the State median income)…. but they may give priority to those households with the highest home energy costs or needs in relation to income.”

Every state has a different threshold to qualify, which mainly depends on how many members of the family there are. Looking at a website that breaks down 2009/2010 estimated state median income levels per state (and by number of home occupants and the required 60% median amount), 60% of the state median income in Texas of a 4 person family would be $33,964. For a family of 6, it jumps to $44,832.

You can see the official LIHEAP site here, check out their information brochure here (NOTE: PDF), scan the eligibility requirements here, read the press release from the US Department of Health and Human Services here, or just call ’em at 1-866-674-6327.