Do you know what it means to be without power? A well
doesn't work. Pipes burst. And more than food perishes-people do. In an
average year, more than 1,000 Americans succumb to the effects of extreme
heat and cold. In the summer of 2003, a heat wave killed between 22,000
and 35,000 people in five European countries, and American researchers
have warned such events could happen here. In a world vexed by gradual
global warming, it seems more a matter of when, rather than if, such a
calamity will visit our nation.
Fortunately, the federal government has a program to assist people in
economic need to deal with these sorts of extremes: LIHEAP. This program
helps low-income households reduce their fuel costs, and it provides the
most assistance to households with low to modest incomes and the highest
energy burdens. LIHEAP also prioritizes elderly, disabled, and very young
people, in low to modest income households and those of us who are facing
financial crisis. LIHEAP oftentimes makes it possible to avoid utility
shut-offs and in some instances, can even make the difference between
life and death.
The LIHEAP Program Provides:
- Heating or Cooling Assistance for Households, especially those that
are home to elderly, disabled or very young individuals, to defray costs
of heating and cooling their house, mobile home or apartment.
- Energy Crisis Intervention offers emergency funds for energy bills
as well as weather-related crises.
- Emergency Contingency Grants delivered a one-time distribution of
$43 million to the states Entergy serves on Jan. 20, 2010, to help eligible
households hit hard by 2009/10's unusually severe winter weather.
- Weatherization Assistance is available in some areas where circumstances
allow. LIHEAP funds can also be used to permanently improve the efficiency
of eligible households by adding insulation, weather sealants and other
energy related home repairs.
Grants to Entergy States Tripled From 2008 to 2010:
Since 2009, Congress has improved its commitment to
LIHEAP. The beneficial effect on the states and citizens Entergy
serves is apparent in the chart below. However, this funding is
not guaranteed from year to year, and in fact, has actually been
proposed to be reduced by 35 percent next year. Despite the uncertainties
of federal funding, the need for LIHEAP endures, and in today's
challenging circumstances-is actually growing.
Chart to Enlarge
Households qualify for LIHEAP if one or more individuals in the household
are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security
Income, food stamps, or certain veterans' benefits or payments; or household
income does not exceed 60 percent of state median income or 150 percent
of the federal poverty level, whichever is greater.
LIHEAP Misses Five Times As Many Americans As It Helps
While Entergy and many others were successful in persuading Congress
to commit $5.1 billion for LIHEAP for the second year in a row, the need
for home energy assistance is growing. "Too many friends, neighbors and
loved ones are still caught in this tough economy," said Brian Oddo. In
2009, LIHEAP and Entergy's own The Power to Care Program combined were
able to help over 331,000 at-risk households and more than one million
Americans living in one of the most impoverished areas of the country.
Although LIHEAP sent the four states Entergy serves $313 million in 2009,
many more people are in need than the program can presently help.
At $5.1 billion, LIHEAP reaches fewer than one in five eligible citizens
nationally. In fact, at current funding levels, the program misses 82
percent of those who qualify for help. This means a total of 4.7 million
Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas households or 12 million nearby
Americans that meet LIHEAP's eligibility criteria, nonetheless do not
receive its assistance.
Although Many Americans Are Still in Trouble, LIHEAP Funding Could Be
The Need for LIHEAP is Actually Growing Because:
- Jobs aren't coming back even as the economy recovers,
- Unemployment and food stamp benefits are running out,
- Severe winter weather, especially in the South, has driven home energy
costs up, and
- Despite these realities, Congress is concerned about the federal deficit
and wants to cut spending.
LIHEAP Needs a $7.6 Billion Federal Appropriation
To even casual observers, it is clear that today's LIHEAP program is
under-funded and overwhelmed. Charitable initiatives like Entergy's The
Power to Care Program cannot fill today's $2.5 billion breach between
where LIHEAP is and where it needs to be. Only Congress can do that.
For this reason, state LIHEAP administrators, the National Fuel Funds
Network, the American Gas Association, Entergy and many others are appealing
to Congress to enact a $2.5 billion supplemental appropriation for LIHEAP
this year and to sustain that commitment through the next. These approaches
also dovetail with the recently-introduced Energy Assistance for American
Families Act, (HR 4554), which authorizes the program's funding at this
level through 2014.
When the funds aren't there, deserving applicants are turned away, and
despite their heroic work, charities cannot make up the shortfall. Many
LIHEAP recipients are almost by definition likely to be too old and too
ill to find the means to ask Congress to fund this life-saving program
at $7.6 billion.