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Federal

2010 Low Income Initiative Progress Report

Federal/LIHEAP Report


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.

LIHEAP 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.

Click Chart to Enlarge

LIHEAP Qualifications

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 Cut

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

How You Can Help.

Write your Representative and Senator and urge them to support LIHEAP. Or call your local Entergy Low-Income Customer Assistance Champion for other ways you can get involved.

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.


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