At the beginning of each winter season, Durham County officials jump start a decades-old program to help low income families with home heating costs.

This season, with federal energy officials forecasting a slightly colder winter than last year, and that U.S. households will spend more on heating costs as a consequence of inflation, the county’s 40-year-old heating assistance program offers a warm relief.

Starting on this week, Durham residents aged 60 or older can get help with their heating bills through the Durham Department of Social Services Low-Income Energy Assistance (LIEAP), which was started in 1981.

In addition to residents who are 60 years old and older, disabled community members and families who receive Food and Nutrition Services can also receive help with their energy bill, according to a Durham County press release.

County officials say that on January 3, all Durham residents who meet the income eligibility requirements can apply for help with their heating bills.

“I’m sure that this program will be even more popular this year due to what Duke Energy has been saying,” Pamela Purifoy, a county spokeswoman wrote in an email to the INDY Wednesday afternoon. 

“There’s a new water program coming, too,” she added.

It’s not just Duke Energy cranking up heating bill costs. 

Last month, officials with the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast an increase in average heating prices this winter throughout the country and globally for all heating fuels.

EIA officials noted that in comparison with last year’s heating costs, American families will spend 54 percent more for propane, 43 percent more for heating oil, 30 percent more for natural gas, and six percent more for electricity, in an October 13 press release.

“As we have moved beyond what we expect to be the deepest part of the pandemic-related economic downturn, growth in energy demand has generally outpaced growth in supply,” Steve Nalley, the EIA’s acting administrator, said in the release. “These dynamics are raising energy prices around the world.”

The EIA release also pointed to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast of a colder winter than last year’s that will result in an increase in energy consumption this winter.

“The higher global and domestic energy prices that are resulting from economies beginning to grow again are going to translate into larger household bills for energy this winter,” Nalley added.

Durham residents who need assistance can call (919) 560-8192 to make a virtual appointment with LIEAP specialists on staff. For those residents who are comfortable completing the LIEAP application without assistance, click here to apply for the one-time energy assistance benefit.

The LIEAP program ends March 31, 2022.

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to