September 2017 LIHEAP National News Wrap-Up

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Writing and reporting by Jake Brown

Washington D.C. delivered a rare piece of certainty to the nervous ears of LIHEAP state offices, community action agencies, utilities, and--most importantly--vulnerable customers around the country. After months of uncertainty, the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee officially passed an appropriations bill with $3.39 Billion in program funding, while a 3-month continuing resolution set to run through December 8th included LIHEAP funding for fall enrollment season just as applications were starting to roll in around the United States. 

The fall enrollment season is open for LIHEAP's support with winter heating bills. U.S. Senator Susan Collins co-authored a letter to the HHS with North Dakota U.S. Senator John Hoeven urging the expedited release of fall funding. The letter notes that LIHEAP "been an indispensable lifeline during challenging economic times, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for other necessities like food or medicine."

 Senator Hoeven drove home the point that "for families struggling to get by, whose homes may not be well-insulated or weatherized against harsh weather, this assistance helps make ends meet. That’s why we are urging the administration to make the funding available, so state agencies are prepared to help out as soon as needed."  

Local agencies were already running in high gear, including Milwaukee County's Energy Assistance program center, where over 58,000 applicants were served throughout the 2016/2017 season, representing a SINGLE SEASON RECORD!

The Milwaukee Courier reported that this impressive synergy was made possible through a focus on "improvements to program administration focused on improving program quality, reducing wait times, and using technology, ultimately resulting in increased access to the more than $40 million program."  Celebrating the achievement as an (example) of just how much of a milestone this accomplishment was, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele paid a personal visit at the end of September to highlight the fact that "they have been able to serve more applicants than ever while having the lowest wait-times in program history."

Back East, HeartShare of New York, a CAA whose core mission is to "bridge the gap between government, community and families...educate and advocate for the community and equip low income families with resources to stay warm and safe" dispatched Tanya Jones, Director of Energy Assistance & Community Development, to personally visit legislative partners including Assemblyman Titone, and Senators Comrie, Golden and Lanza to speak on behalf of LIHEAP.

Meanwhile, New York City-based non-profit the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, spotlighted the connection between energy efficiency and affordability in the inner-city communities they serve. Assistant Director Marie Calvert-Kilbane noted that "we've been pushing energy efficiency more heavily in the last couple of years because its one way our buildings tend to be affordable in the long-term."  Partnering with utility Con Edison as a pilot on a 16-floor walk-up on 9th Street in Manhattan to implement "a comprehensive set of energy efficiency upgrades," the results for residents boasted "the cost-saving and comfort benefits of energy-efficient homes." 

Next door, Pennsylvanians breathed a sigh of relief on behalf of her state's approximately 345,000 LIHEAP-reliant families after word came down from the Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services that it reversed its preliminary decision to delay the opening of the season and reduce grant levels.

This decision followed a widely-covered public hearing in July to protest the proposal. Patrick Cicero, director of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project and chairman of the LIHEAP Advisory Committee, praised the decision as one where "we are glad to see that DHS has reversed its preliminary decision to delay the opening of the season and reduce grant levels.  Without a doubt, this outcome would not have been possible had the public not demanded it at the public hearings held by DHS in July."

Cicero also encouraged State legislators to step up with additional funding because "the $200 million that we get does not serve all the households that need it and is insufficient. It's been a long time since Pennsylvania has ever funded LIHEAP.  There's some movement in the General Assembly to fund it, but they're not funding it this year.  The more people who demonstrate need, the more likely we're going to convince Congress and the state Assembly that more appropriations are needed to meet the demand."

In neighboring New Jersey, Atlantic City Electric took to the media to put out word that customers could breathe a little easier as a $1000-per-household energy assistance payment would be available with the LIHEAP winter heating season. Region President Vince Maione sang the praises of this vital program, spotlighting the difference it makes for "our customers may face financial challenges in meeting their energy needs, so we help them secure the essential energy assistance they need to keep their lights on."

In Massachusetts, Congressman William R. Keating made the important point that in the aftermath of the recent run of disastrous tropical storm fronts that hit the East Coast, and "as we quickly approach the colder weather months, it is imperative that we release the maximum amount of funds available for this program so we not only alleviate some of the burden of high energy costs for our families, but also provide critical assistance to countless Americans suffering from the effects of the recent hurricanes."  

Joined by 90 of his fellow members of the House of Representatives across both sides of the aisle - reflective of LIHEAP's universal impact - the letter was encouraging to CAAs like Citizens for Citizens, Inc. who through their Fuel Director Garth Patterson,  spoke on behalf of the thousands of households who keep their families warm during winter with heating oil that "our Massachusetts Energy Network continues to enjoy the unwavering support of our federal delegation, and I’d like to thank Congressman William Keating and the other authors of this letter and the many members who signed on for supporting these efforts.”

Advocate Spotlight: LIHEAP Saves California

When energy advocates in California learned that LIHEAP was being threatened at the national level, they learned there was no time left to waste.


“It was then that we realized that we were in a new political environment, and it was up to individuals like us to begin sharing the very real, very important impact of LIHEAP on citizens in California and beyond,” shared Dennis Osmer, executive director of Central Coast Energy Services, a not-for-profit organization that provides a variety of energy services, including consumer energy education and advocacy and utility assistance.


Alongside his team members, Dennis created a new initiative, LIHEAP Helps California, to bring light to the issue of LIHEAP in his local community. The goal of LIHEAP Helps California was to share what normally goes quietly appreciated at Central Coast Energy Services: the outpouring of thank yous and gratitude from California residents who receive LIHEAP funds to keep their homes safe and powered during times of economic crisis.


“We’ve always kept our heads down and gotten the work done to help families in our communities,” Osmer said. “But we work every day knowing that there is no replacement for LIHEAP in our local area. When we stepped back and considered what elimination of the program might mean for people, the impact was tremendous.”


Osmer recognizes that LIHEAP currently serves only six percent of the eligible population in California, but he also notes that for those families, LIHEAP is a significant contribution to their lives. Throughout the year, LIHEAP funds are administered to families who cannot keep their utility bills up to date due to financial stresses. Central Coast Energy Services, in turn, receives notes, letters, thank you cards, and recommendations from the consumers it serves. This gratitude comes in without any solicitation from Central Coast Energy Services—a testament to the impact the LIHEAP funds are having on the families it serves.

LIHEAP Recipients share their story.

LIHEAP Recipients share their story.


“That gratitude is where we started,” Osmer said. “We simply started gathering the stories and sharing them on social media. We took the stories that we already had, and then we reached out to other consumers who were willing to tell their own story, too.”


The result is LIHEAP Helps California: an ongoing effort to capture and share real California families and their experience with LIHEAP funding. The campaign features a website, and active Twitter and Facebook accounts, where dozens of personal stories are shared. 


Gathering such personal stories, where individuals and families must share their need for assistance on a public front, can be a challenge for most organizations. The team at Central Coast Energy Services had a special advantage to reaching out to beneficiaries. Central Coast Energy Services has an ongoing business relationship with nearly all of their region’s energy assistance agencies. Central Coast Energy Services developed a management software that makes it easy to track LIHEAP funds, and most of the local agencies use that software to manage their LIHEAP program distributions. Due to these ongoing working relationships, Central Coast Energy Services was able to easily reach out to the agencies and partner with them to get access to families who would be willing to speak out on behalf of LIHEAP and its influence on their lives.


“We knew that sharing stories was going to be more effective than any major political lobbying would be,” Dennis noted, sharing that advocating on behalf of the program is part of their job as an organization.


“This year was a real wake up call for us,” he continued. “We realized that hope is not enough. Hope that politicians and leaders would continue to fund LIHEAP or increase the funding was not going to cut it this year. We needed—and still need—to get active.”


Currently, Osmer and his team are working on setting up meetings between Californians and their representatives in Washington, DC. Sparking conversation between policymakers and the individuals from their home communities is important—whether that conversation happens in California or back in DC, where the votes and decisions are made.

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“We need to make this program a priority,” Osmer said. “We live in a community where the loss of LIHEAP would make a significant, noticeable impact, and we don’t want to see that happen.”


In addition to setting up meetings, LIHEAP Helps California also provides several resources to encourage people to connect with Congress and their representatives and get involved on social media.


For more information about LIHEAP Helps California, visit, and follow along as the campaign shares the real stories of families willing to speak up and speak out for LIHEAP.   

Arkansas: A LIHEAP Champion

Writing and reporting by Jake Brown

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Arkansas: World Headquarters of Walmart and Sam's Club. Birthplace of Johnny Cash and former two-term President William Jefferson Clinton.  Home of Ozark and Hot Springs National Parks. And, like so many LIHEAP-reliant Southern states, dotted with a majority-rural populace across its vast landscape of bluffs, mountains and caverns, winding lakes, rivers and streams, forest pines and diamond mines.  


Brandi Hinkle, Deputy Chief of Communications in the Arkansas Department of Human Services, shares her concern of the threat of LIHEAP elimination with thousands of urban and suburban families who rely on LIHEAP for assistance, especially with cold winter months on the horizon. 


Giving readers an up-to-date look at the actual intake numbers, the Arkansas Department of Human Services shared the following chart to demonstrate the steady and increasing need for LIHEAP to support Arkansas families:

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Local community action agencies are already feeling the increased pressure of the upcoming winter season. As with most states, agencies handle the bulk of LIHEAP outreach and applications.  Deputy Chief Hinkle commended the agencies for their ongoing commitment to serving their communities, noting that "Arkansas numbers have increased over last years’ numbers." Deputy Chief Hinkle added that "the State of Arkansas and the Community Action Agencies have established a partnership to provide the LIHEAP clients a service designed to address the needs of our families. In order for us to achieve this goal, we must offer dedicated services with our low income communities in mind."   


Arkansas's largest CAA, the Central Arkansas Development Council, which is famous for its "Mass Intake" days, staged a wildly successful awareness campaign at the Arkansas State Fair to reach out to rural customers. The agency also hosted urban events at the Arkansas Workforce Center of Little Rock to ensure urban populations were educated about the program and its benefits.


Across the Twin Lakes region of the state, Ozark Opportunities, Inc., continues to help thousands of Arkansas households. The 50-year-old agency served more than 3500 households in 2015 alone. Program coordinator Blaine Lawrence noted that despite changes in the political and state landscape, the application lines have remained steady and strong over the years.


The elderly remain one of the state's most active LIHEAP demographics. Deputy Chief Hinkle confirmed the simple truth that "without these funds available to families or households with elderly residents or individuals with disabilities, there may be an increase in the number of weather-related deaths." 


Arkansas is home to a strongly-connected network running throughout community and retirement centers around the state, including the Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education in Springdale, Arkansas. Tomiko Townley, Older Adult and SNAP Outreach Manager, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, noted that organizations like Schmieding are working hard to connect to local seniors as well as "service providers and policy makers to fully understand how best to serve the aging population. Older adult issues need to be illuminated and demystified. The senior population in Arkansas will only continue to grow, and it is past time for the state to develop long-lasting strategies to eliminate hunger and food insecurity in the older adult population.  There are many groups around the state doing amazing things for the older adult population suffering from food insecurity and poverty. Unfortunately, those supportive services are often centrally located, which makes it very difficult for seniors living in rural communities to access them...All invested parties to support and strengthen existing programs, including LIHEAP. Charitable organizations do not have the capacity to serve the entire senior population in need, but they have an important role in filling the gap between those eligible for programs and support." 


With the state's utility providers kicking in a helping hand as well,  Deputy Chief Hinkle confirmed the valuable partnership that exists within "the relationship between the Utility Suppliers and DHS is a community effort that ensures the success of Arkansas LIHEAP.  There are some utilities that sponsor fundraisers, company donated proceeds, etc., to assist clients in lowing their energy burden and to help in the prevention of disconnects."  Still, this year, cautioning that utilities were forced to raise their rates in 2017 as these "companies invest and improve their infrastructure," Arkansas' Attorney General Leslie Rutledge explained that asconsequence, "this may cause bills to be higher than expected and these expenses can become quite overwhelming and put some Arkansans in a dangerous situation." 


Pointing to the most immediate remedy of relief available to struggling families around the state adversely affected by rising utility bills, A.G. Rutledge pointed her website's spotlight on "a number of effective and inexpensive ways to save money while making sure you and your families” keep the power on, including LIHEAP.  Appreciative of her state's political backing of the LIHEAP program, Deputy Chief Hinkle stated that "the Governor’s office and Legislature is in support of the program," adding that to ensure every dollar is maximized to the benefit of those who most need the assistance, "the expenditure of these funds is approved and monitored by the Legislative Review Committee."


Weatherization has proven another strong ally in the state's effort to stretch every LIHEAP dollar as far as it can help, especially when the focus turns on future independence from energy assistance. "Weatherization is a very important component of LIHEAP for our families," Deputy Cheif Hinkle said. "Weatherization offers a more long-term benefit to those families as well as one you can see immediately after their services." 


Many of the advancements in weatherization have come courtesy of inter-state agency partnerships, as well as through the kind of private and non-profit teamings that the Fort Smith Times Record highlighted between "an electric power and gas company cooperative program that provides free weatherization improvements to homes in the region cuts utility bills by an average of 30 percent and continues to push back the need for a new power plant. An average of $2,500 is spent on each home, and the power company recoups the loss within an 18- to 24-month time period by reducing the amount spent to produce the electricity."


Such cost-saving measures will continue to play an essential role in making sure as many homes' power stays on this coming winter as possible as uncertainty over the Federal budget threatens to potentially eliminate LIHEAP, meaning devastating implications for the "nearly 34,000 Arkansans who applied for assistance in heating and cooling their homes in 2016," Little Rock's KATV reported earlier this year.  Feeling the presence of this looming threat all too really, the hard-working team at the state's LIHEAP office are working overtime to ensure everyone who applies for assistance receives it, even as Deputy Chief Hinkle acknowledges the all-too-real danger that comes with the reality that "depending on the amount of the cut, it could be a significant impact." For now, she remains optimistic, focusing on the positive difference the program continues to make in tens of thousands of "elderly, Individuals With Disabilities and Families with children" as "Arkansas' numbers have increased over last years’ numbers," and showing no signs of slowing as the cold winter season approaches...


Brandi Hinkle, MBA, APR | Arkansas Department of Human Services

Office of Communications & Community Engagement | Deputy Chief of Communications



Harvey, Irma, & LIHEAP

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma Impact Energy Assistance

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Energy Prices & Availability Hurting Already-Struggling American Families

Writing and reporting by Jake Brown

Reverberations in the aftermath of a natural disaster are almost always economically tragic. Along with the horrific immediate devastation Hurricane Harvey has rained down across Texas, the longer-term energy costs of everyday Americans was further threatened in terms of the coming winter's utility bills. CNN Money reported that "it still threatens to cause prolonged disruptions to the critical refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast."  


Focusing specifically on the damage the storm has caused to the heart of the business of drawing oil from the gulf, CNN added that "Houston also marks the beginning of the Colonial Pipeline, which transports more than 100 million gallons of gasoline, heating oil and aviation fuel each day to as far as the New York harbor. Power outages during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 forced the shutdown of parts of the Colonial Pipeline for several days."  


Fortune Magazine noted that, as a consequence, "those closures...are pushing up the prices of energy products like gasoline and heating oil as investors anticipate a drop in supply. Gasoline October futures were up 4 cents on Friday to $1.58 per gallon, their highest point in four months. Heating Oil October Futures jumped up by 2 cents to $1.65 from $1.63.


Just turning the power back on in and itself was proving an early challenge, according to CNBC. The outlet highlighted the vastness of the impact, citing 280,000 customers without power along the Texas coast and in Houston, and about 7,500 Texas New Mexico Power Company customers were still experiencing outages, according to the company's outage map."


The very utility companies who might normally be the ones threatening shut-offs to families were putting such considerations aside as crews from around the nation raced to aid millions of households in repairing power grids and restoring power to individual homes.  


The Topeka Capital Journal announced an all-hands-on-deck assistance strategy: "Westar Energy crews from across Kansas were mobilizing at the Belle Plain rest area on Interstate 35 south of Wichita as they prepared to depart about noon. CenterPoint Energy, which provides electricity and natural gas service to the Houston area, reached out to Topeka-based Westar and other regional utilities to help repair damage and restore power to nearly 60,000 customers," officials said Monday.


In Kentucky, Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company dispatched 190 "employee and contractor line technicians, team leaders, tree trimmers and additional support staff" coming from areas across the region. The teams boosted restoration efforts, dispatching assets to both Texas and Florida in anticipation of Hurricane Irma's expected landfall.


"More than 50 of LG&E and KU’s contractors remain in Texas, where they arrived last weekend, continuing to assist American Electric Power with restoration efforts following Hurricane Harvey," reported The Lane Report. That trend is expected to continue throughout September as a steady stream of professional talent donated their time, expertise, and equipment to getting power restored as fast as possible in Hurricane-affect areas.


In response to the threat of spiking energy prices as a consequence of Harvey's damage heading into the fall, local LIHEAP offices and officials from across impacted areas worked quickly to publicly reassure already-vulnerable households that utility services would not be interrupted where the storm was responsible and repaired, especially with Hurricane Irma's impact on Florida's electrical grid.  Fox Business News reported that end Florida utilities warned consumers about the likely loss of electricity due to Hurricane Irma, despite billions of dollars in investments to strengthen the power grid in recent years.


In reaction, Northeastern utility crews from neighboring states were ready to help with the restoration efforts. Exelon, the parent company of Maryland utility providers BGE, Delmarva Power and Pepco, told it was preapred with over "1,000 utility contractors ready to start traveling to Florida and Georgia. The workers ranged from tree crews to line workers and safety personnel." From as far north as Michigan, The Detroit News announced similar news that local "utilities are sending hundreds of workers to Florida so they’re ready to assist with power restorations when Hurricane Irma hits the state." DTE Energy sent roughly 300 line workers plus 100 tree trimmers...and more than 200 Consumers Energy employees and contract personnel are headed from Michigan to Florida to assist local electric companies.

July & August 2017 LIHEAP News Wrap Up

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LIHEAP Rallying Cries From Around the Nation


Writing and Reporting by Jake Brown

Phone lines and news wires lit up around the country like a wildfire throughout July and August as fears over LIHEAP elimination spread. Many states were forced to make early reductions in the numbers of projected households they would be able to help this winter due to the uncertainty over the FY2018 budget.  Enough of an alarm was raised to inspire a majority of Attorney Generals from around the country to co-sign a letter forewarning Congress of the damage the sense of uncertainty over funding was having on both state LIHEAP offices and millions of families around the country. 


Reflective of LIHEAP's broad geographic relevance, the attorney generals were joined by consumer advocate directors in defending LIHEAP.  Their chorus was an impassioned defense of the results-oriented nature of a program that has been a consistent performer in providing "a critical lifeline to customers who struggle each month to pay for life's necessities by assisting them to remain connected to essential utility services. We strongly urge you to oppose any measure that would reduce or eliminate funding for these critical programs, and instead increase these essential and cost-effective services." 


Speaking on behalf of her colleagues around the country, Connecticut's Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz emphasized that the "annual distributions of LIHEAP funds specifically prioritize seniors and families with small children.  Seventy percent of recipient households have at least one member who is elderly or disabled, or have a child under the age of six. The Advocates argue that without this vital assistance, many of these families would be faced with the impossible choice of opting between heating and cooling their homes, and paying for other necessities, such as food and medications."


A new wave of brave LIHEAP recipients took their voices public. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covered a public hearing in Downtown Pittsburgh convened by the state Department of Human Services.  At this hearing, Lisa Gonzalez, a 50-year-old resident with a disabling medical condition, spoke out forcefully: "I use LIHEAP. I use it in crisis. If it wasn’t for LIHEAP, most of the time, I wouldn’t have (any) gas."  Testifying on his customers' behalf was Aaron Miller, a heating and cooling technician who weatherizes furnaces, who attested that "the folks I see through this program are elderly, disabled, single parents and families who are trying really hard just to get by already." Karen Wheeler, a Philadelphia resident, explained the helpless position she was put in when she reached out for LIHEAP's helping hand:  “The reality was my electricity was shut off at the time, but I was embarrassed and I didn’t want anyone to know that...Making the country better doesn’t mean cutting off programs like LIHEAP and putting the weight of the world on the backs of the poor."


The public protests were ignited after the state announced a pre-emptive and dramatic 25% cut to program funding as a consequence of the threat of Federal cuts to LIHEAP funding by the White House. NPR elaborated on the repercussions and the impact the threat of lost funds made on Pennsylvania officials.

(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)


In Maine, an elderly recipient of LIHEAP assistance, 86-year-old Richard Perkins, courageously opened up candidly about his fear about the havoc that losing the critical lifeline would cause to his health and well-being, bluntly telling the Associated Press that "it's beyond my thinking that anyone could be that cruel." The AP highlighted the fact that "Perkins is a typical recipient.  His income was fine 10 or 12 years ago when he retired, but gasoline, food and other expenses grew faster than he anticipated. In the winter, he keeps an eye on his oil storage tank, and the local community action agency sends 100 gallons when it gets low.  It's difficult for him to keep warm because he's on a blood thinner, and he shudders at the thought of being cold." 


In neighboring New Hampshire, US News published an editorial focused on the same risk the readers of the Nashua Telegraph were facing, making the sobering point that "any further cut, or the complete elimination of LIHEAP, would be a tremendous hit to those in our region who need the most assistance." Cuts in New Hampshire potentially affect more than 30,000 applicants for $28 million in heating aid.


In the Lake of the Ozarks region of Southern Missouri, another concerned citizen courageously put their LIHEAP story out on the front lines to help raise awareness of the lengths traveled to make the energy stretch even with LIHEAP's assistance, telling the Springfield News Leader that "in the summertime I try very hard to only use a small fan to keep my utility bills small. In the winter it's harder because of having to keep my pipes from freezing. So I keep my thermostat set at 50 degrees and cover up with a sleeping bag. Sometimes if it's really cold, I let the neighbor's cat in and he helps keep me warm. Yes, I really need your help and appreciate it!"  The August profile also shined light on "the walls of an office suite in OACAC's office in northeast Springfield are covered nearly from floor to ceiling with thank you cards received over the years."


Spotlighting other residents who were willing to identify themselves publicly as energy assistance beneficiaries, the Springfield News Leader profiled Tom Lawson, a 71-year-old retired Springfield resident surviving like so many on a fixed monthly income of $1,049 that he splits between paying for his house, car, insurances, taxes, food and medical bills.


In the South, in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky, alarm bells were already warning LIHEAP-dependant families that "tens of thousands of Kentucky families who rely on help to heat their homes in the winter could be left out in the cold." Local Louisville television station WDRB reported the number of potentially affected families at approximately 150,000 households.  Meanwhile, in Illinois, the Citizen's Utility Board celebrated as funding for two of the state's most popular energy assistance programs, Illinois Solar For All and LIHEAP were saved from the chopping block, revealing in July that "funding for those programs was in danger of being “swept”—or used for different purposes in the state budget.  But thousands of people stood up to save them, and that’s good news for utility bills in Illinois."


In the boiling Southwest, creative states like Arizona teamed the resources of County and City energy assistance programs to expand and maximize outreach to help more households, reasoning they can do so together more effectively than individually. Tuscon LIHEAP Program Manager Manita Cervantes explained that " Pima County is actually going to be serving city and county residents. There will no longer be a separation."  In neighboring New Mexico, the Albuquerque-based ABC-affiliate KOAT Channel 7 reported that families struggling with past-due summer cooling bills could find a helping hand courtesy of the Good Neighbor Fund Program, stepping in to help vulnerable households get caught up ahead of the winter season starting next month.


Out in California, Home Energy - which bills itself as The Home Performance Magazine - published an op-ed on the dramatic hit cuts would have across the state, not just for the families the programs helps, but also to non-profits, community action and charity organizations that make up the quilt of LIHEAP shelter.  Arguing it would essentially bust the seams, Home Energy reasoned that "if the LIHEAP program were to go away it would cause a downward trajectory that would undermine all the work that has been accomplished. It would convey a message that the help and education it has provided doesn’t matter. Putting an end to LIHEAP would eliminate thousands of jobs and continued training and education that are necessary to continue to help those in need and achieve the goals of the Energy Efficiency Standards. To continue to make impactful changes in the lives of LIHEAP recipients, we must treat the threat of de-funding LIHEAP with the urgency and persistence it deserves. We need a long term commitment to be effectual - your voice counts!"