Creating a Benefit Matrix Based on Points: A Step-by-Step Interactive Guide br>
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The LIHEAP Statute, Section 2605(b)(5), says grantees must "provide, in a timely manner, that the highest level of assistance will be furnished to those households which have the lowest incomes and the highest energy costs or needs in relation to income, taking into account family size." The section (also known as Assurance 5) also says that grantees may not differentiate in implementing this section between the households described Assurance 2(a) and 2(b), that is, there can be no difference in the treatment of households eligible because of their income and those categorically eligible because they receive benefits under TANF, Food Stamps, SSI,etc.)
The statute defines "highest home energy needs" as "taking into account both the energy burden of such household and the unique situation of such household that results from having members of vulnerable populations, including very young children, individuals with disabilities, and frail older individuals."
Furthermore, "energy burden" is defined as "the expenditures of the household for home energy divided by the income of the household."
In addition to the three critical factors cited in the statute: income, household/family size, and energy cost or need, grantees traditionally have type, or individual bill. They also take into account their LIHEAP allocation for the year.
Section D of the Tribal Manual says most tribes use a payment matrix to make sure they are meeting the requirement that the highest level of assistance goes to households with the lowest incomes and highest energy costs. A payment matrix is a chart on which all of the required factors--income, energy costs (usually represented by fuel types,) energy needs, and family size--are listed so an intake worker can find the correct benefit level by locating the characteristics of the applicant on the chart. The chart is important, but more important are the decisions that have to be made to correctly fill in the chart.
The Tribal Manual states a tribe must know the following in order to design a matrix:
1. Approximately how much money the tribe will spend for each type of assistance (heating, cooling, crisis, or weatherization).
2. Approximately how many eligible households the tribe plans to serve. The tribe may want to base its payment matrix on the maximum number of households it thinks will be eligible and apply for assistance. (If the tribe has funds left, it can issue additional benefits to all the households or use the funds for other purposes, e.g., crisis, weatherization, carryover, etc.)
3. Heating and/or cooling energy costs for the different types of fuels used by households and an idea of how many households use each type of fuel.
4. Any special energy needs the household may have, such as elderly members, young children or medical problems.
Section D of the Tribal Manual goes step-by-step through the process of creating a benefit matrix.
Examples of Payment Matrices
At the 2012 National Energy and Utility Affordable Conference, Anita Taylor with the Tanana Chiefs Conference gave a presentation about the Conference's energy assistance program. It covers their benefit matrix starting on page 12.