LIHEAP Recipients Publicly Defend Threatened Program

AP Photo/Wilson Ring

Writing and Reporting by Jake Brown

The latest foot soldiers in the battle to beat back the White House’s dangerous effort to defund LIHEAP could perhaps be the most powerfully persuasive voices to speak up yet as more and more energy assistance recipients are heroically stepping up to publicly offer real-life testimony about the difference this life-saving program played in their lives this past winter of 2017:

At the top of May, the Associated Press profiled Todd Alexander, a LIHEAP beneficiary, in its coverage of LIHEAP funding surviving any further cuts in FY2017. Alexander, a resident of Milton, Vermont, spoke up to correct a popular political misperception: “I try to get across to these people that this helps low-income people that are working. This isn’t just about people, as they say … doing nothing on welfare, and that’s what really upsets me.”

Michael Deering opened up to the Vermont Digger about the light-saving difference LIHEAP made, telling local community action agency Capstone that “it was so helpful to have this community resource available at a time of need in our family. Just after I had shoulder surgery, we had a difficult decision to make about paying either the electric bill that had become overdue and was about to be disconnected and being able to have fuel for the van to make sure my family got to school and appointments.  Hard times hit everyone, regardless of income and status but hard times don’t last forever and there is help out there for a lot of people.”

Ann Chabot, 60, of Belmont, New Hampshire, bravely stated the cold, hard truth during winter time that “I would be so lost; I wouldn’t know what to do without it. I don’t want to be out on the streets, I don’t want to lose my home, and I certainly don’t want to lose fuel, because we need that. We need all the help we can get… It’s a really needed program.”

In Massachusetts, Daniela Dragu – a woman with disabilities who depends on a LIHEAP-funded program for heating fuel assistance during the winter months through CAA Self Help Inc. – candidly confessed that  “I don’t know what I would have done without (LIHEAP)…I would be lost if the government took this away.”

Illinois local TV station Fox Affiliate Channel 55 spotlighted single mother of two Heather Whitmore, who hammered home that in order to keep hers warm during the winter months, LIHEAP is “very important because without it I would be probably cut off from it right now or within the next week.  I got bills here that are $742 and I don’t know how I am going to come up with that…(LIHEAP is)…helping me get my past balances paid down, so I can move forward in life.”

Down South in central Arkansas, a college student who was able to make progress toward her education and degree in part because of LIHEAP thanked the Central Arkansas Development Council for their help with the Utility Assistance program and the Saline County Single Parent Scholarship Program, noting that as a result, “this last semester has been a crazy one, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am graduating May 13th–Summa Cum Laude–and I have been accepted to the MA Professional and Technical Writing graduate program starting in the Fall. I really appreciate all you and CADC have done for me. I couldn’t have made it without you.”

Meanwhile, in the urban center of Little Rock, Channel 7 News interviewed an anonymous inner-city single mother of two who has relied crucial energy assistance through 7 brutal winters, backs up the common assertion by advocates and recipients that “LIHEAP is actually a life saver, without LIHEAP I wouldn’t be able to survive, me and my family wouldn’t be able to survive, we would be living with someone else… Right now I have a $500 light bill and I’m disabled and that would take almost my whole check and I wouldn’t know how to pay my mortgage, or anything else, or how to feed my kids.”

For the latest LIHEAP news and policy updates, be sure to stay in touch with the Campaign right here on our blog and via Twitter.

Header image: AP Photo/Wilson Ring