January 2018: LIHEAP National News Wrap-Up



Writing and Reporting by Jake Brown


The Northeastern United States was a frigid sheet of ice as the 2018 rang in, and while all celebrated the New Year, others sounded an alarm bell of sorts over the life-threatening danger of temperatures courtesy of a Blizzard of freezing weather that Accuweather reported “cold air rivaling that of the past 100 years for early January…In terms of the level of cold, actual temperatures in many locations will be in the lower 5 percentile for all years on record for early January, according to the National Weather Service.”  


Seeking to get out as far ahead of the storm in warning their constituents of both the dangers and the help that was available through the LIHEAP Crisis funding to help keep the heat on, a New England Congressional Delegation comprised of Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and Representatives Richard Neal, James McGovern, Michael Capuano, Stephen F. Lynch, Niki Tsongas, William Keating, Joseph P. Kennedy III, Katherine Clark, and Seth Moulton co-authored a letter to HHS urging urgent release of funds as “families in our state are in desperate need of the remaining LIHEAP funds to combat the deadly combination of sustained cold weather and high fuel prices.  Because of the frigid cold combined with higher fuel prices, the Department of Energy (DOE) forecasts that consumers across the Northeast will have to pay significantly more to heat their homes this winter.” 


Up in Maine, traditionally one of the hardest-hit cold weather states in the U.S. during the winter months, Congressman Bruce Poliquin went to the press with a letter in a plea to House of Representatives leaders Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi to prioritize the funding for LIHEAP against the backdrop of his home state “Maine winters can be harsh, but Mainers are resilient. However, any loss of LIHEAP support is unacceptable.  As Maine prepares for another snow storm this week, it is critical that LIHEAP function at full capacity. It would be a failure of leadership if the U.S. government were to shut down and potentially threaten Mainers in need of heating during our coldest winter months.” 


Next door in Pennsylvania, 95.7 FM in Lewistown announced plans for the annual “Walk for Warmth” for the 8th year in a row, benefiting “those who are ineligible for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), but who have insufficient income to meet home heating needs, or are 65 years of age or older and struggling on a fixed income.” 


Similar calls around the country’s coldest regions came over the airwaves when Mountain News in Eastern Kentucky quoted a LIHEAP recipient, Donna Stidham, who went on record emphasizing LIHEAP’s necessity for her household with her confirmation that “for me and my family, it is about the only way we have of heating our home, you know there aren't any jobs and if it wasn't for them we would be in the dark or out in the cold.”  Mary Watts, another eastern Kentucky resident who depends on the program’s assistance during the frigid winter months, added in her own public testimonial that “if I didn't have that I wouldn't be able to heat my house.” 


In Hoosier country, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch rallied her fellow Indianans to take advantage of LIHEAP’s helping hand “during these extreme temperatures, it is important that low-to-moderate income Hoosiers have a way to ensure the heat stays on in their homes.”  Next door in neighboring Illinois, Linda Hamlin – a resident of Galesburg – voiced concern over the delay in crisis funds being disbursed as she faced the sad reality that “it was gonna be a choice of either pay the whole lump sum from that month, plus then I wouldn't have been able to pay rent…I can't wait, hopefully we get it quicker than what we normally do because I really need it for January's bill.”


Addressing her inner-city constituents facing the same concern over being able to keep the heat on, US Congressman Danny K. Davis teamed up with the Community Economic Development Association and People’s Gas to host a booth at the Winter Resource Fair. At the fair, the organizations helped families apply for LIHEAP on-site and educated West Side Chicago households about the Share the Warmth program sponsored through People’s and progressive new efforts to offer additional relief including “Home Energy Jumpstart, which provides free energy-saving products such as programmable thermostats, showerheads, faucet aerators, pipe insulation, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and smart power strips.”  

The Chicago Hispanic Newspaper reported that hundreds of residents attended, reflecting an overflow of demand that was answered by “personalized, face-to-face interaction with nearly 15 local vendors that provided information on energy and financial assistance, including Peoples Gas, CEDA and ComEd.”