PUC Collaborates with Department of Human Services for LIHEAP Data Sharing to Increase Customer Program Efficiencies and Enrollment

PA PUC logoThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today voted to support efforts by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) to begin sharing income and household information for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) with electric and natural gas utilities if the household grants consent.

In this first step resulting from the Commission’s formation of the Universal Service Working Group in September 2023, the Commission encourages all eligible energy utilities to participate in DHS’ data sharing process that will begin with the 2024-2025 LIHEAP season.  LIHEAP data sharing promotes program efficiencies and eliminates paperwork redundancies by allowing customers who are eligible for LIHEAP to enroll or recertify in energy utilities’ universal service programs without submitting new applications.  

This includes enrollment or recertification in an energy utility’s customer assistance program, low-income usage reduction program, and hardship fund program without the household being required to submit separate applications and duplicative forms of documentation for each program.  These improvements are consistent with the goals of the Universal Service Working Group to ensure eligible Pennsylvania customers receive program benefits while maximizing cost efficiencies.

A joint statement was provided by Chairman Stephen M. DeFrank and Commissioner Kathryn L. Zerfuss.

Chairman DeFrank stated: “This is the first action item to come out of the Universal Service Working Group related to program coordination and design.  I look forward to considering future program enhancements that can benefit the service quality and customer experience for utility assistance programs throughout the Commonwealth.”

“By working collaboratively with DHS, utilities, advocates, and other vested partners on data sharing, we are eliminating bureaucracy by streamlining processes, while still serving the folks back home,” said Commissioner Zerfuss.                  

Universal Service Programs Working Group

In a March 27, 2023, Secretarial Letter, the Commission noted it “is in the public interest to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have access to safe and reliable utility services regardless of their ability to pay. As a result, it is important that the Commission review its universal service policies from time to time. This includes, among other things, all jurisdictional fixed utilities’ universal service programs, including Customer Assistance Programs (CAPs).”

In addition to discussing DHS’s data sharing, the working group has productively collaborated on other topics which address ways to increase coordination of low-income customer assistance programs amongst utilities, streamline the eligibility and enrollment process, and reduce the number of eligible customers that lose benefits. The efforts of this working group will help the Commission achieve its statutory obligations to continue the protections, policies and services that assist customers’ ability to afford electric and natural gas service.


LIHEAP helps families living on low incomes pay their heating bills in the form of a cash grant. Households in immediate danger of being without heat can also qualify for crisis grants. The cash grant is a one-time payment sent directly to your utility company or fuel provider to be credited on your bill. In the 2023-2024 LIHEAP season, cash grants ranged from $300 to $1,000 based on household size, income, and fuel type. Approved applicants will receive a one-time grant that does not need to be repaid.

About the PUC

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.


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