July 5, 2012—The Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee has released a report on the state's administration of its LIHEAP.
The report was drafted per last year's Senate Resolution 165, which asked for an efficiency study on LIHEAP from the finance committee, in part due to concerns raised about the program's integrity in an investigation by the state auditor in 2007.
The report details the extent to which the LIHEAP grantee, the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), has instituted changes in processing applications and benefits through automated systems in order to enhance program integrity and administrative efficiencies. The DPW has also attempted to streamline its LIHEAP application process through an online system and to improve vendor payment processing through an electronic payment documentation and authorization system.
The report noted that last heating season saw longer LIHEAP application times, with completed grant requests taking up to 51 calendar days to process, despite a 45-day DPW completion target. The delay was attributed to unanticipated system integration problems, as a new automated system was rolled out to take over manual application processes.
Final recommendations of the report include:
- Better educating the LIHEAP Advisory Committee, utilities, vendors and recipients about recent changes in application processing and payment
- Having the Department of Public Welfare retain the 10 percent carryover funding from year-to-year as permitted by the federal government
- Monitoring new automated systems for unforeseen issues that could increase application approval times
- Encouraging greater participation of community partners to improve application efficiencies.
Source: PA legislature, newspapers