August 2018: LIHEAP News Wrap Up

August NEWS Wrap Up.png

LIHEAP News from across the country

Writing and reporting for the Campaign for Home Energy Assistance by Jake Brown

August took the title of hottest month on record around much of the United States. With the heat on not only millions of communities around the country, representatives in DC felt the heat from both advocate and direct constituent calls to send more relief back home. Katrina Metzler – Director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association – said, “As we see temperatures growing more extreme during both the winter and the summer in the United States, those extreme weather events have a huge impact…LIHEAP enjoys support from both sides of the aisle, and that’s something that we hope to continue.  By and large, they’ve listened and understood how necessary it is to keep people safe and healthy and warm in the winter and cool in the summer. So we’ve enjoyed support from Congress. They’ve not only reinstated the program, but they’ve also in the house proposed an increase, and we are just crossing our fingers and hopeful that, that will go through. In the current political environment, that would be a huge victory, and we don’t take anything for granted.”


Holding nothing back as she targeted the current occupants of the White House as the main roadblock to peace of mind where funding levels were concerned, Director Metzler noted that aggressive action was required because “the Trump Administration has zeroed out the program every year since he’s been in office, and we don’t expect that to change.  It’s just not a priority with this particular administration, but it is a priority with Congress. So we have been able to get the message to our representatives in Congress that this is an important program that saves lives and stabilizes families. People have to make choices between paying their utility bill or paying for their medicine or food. And those are difficult choices that no one should have to make…The reason it’s important is they’re grandmothers, protecting them when they’re in their homes and not letting anyone freeze to death in their own home. So in the winter, that’s the most important thing, but LIHEAP’s also used in the summer, in the South.”


Down in Tennessee, the Greene County Commission felt the program so important that they voted to approve a proclamation making August, 2018 Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Action Month, while a different vote was taken in back East in Connecticut where local communities were already preparing for winter enrollment seasons to begin, with State State Representatives Pam Staneski (R-119) and Charles Ferraro (R-117) on August 21st supporting what the Orange Town News described as “a bi-partisan, unanimous agreement to provide fuel assistance to low income families across Connecticut regardless of how they heat their homes this winter.” 


Rep. Staneski emphasized its priority as “a public safety issue and it is absolutely necessary for those on fixed incomes, particularly our Orange and Milford families who are struggling.  The LIHEAP program is a lifeline to many and I’m pleased we’re able to reach a bipartisan agreement,” and his colleague Ferraro agreed without question that as a basic societal contract with its most vulnerable citizens, “government should always be there for those that need our help the most.  We must protect programs like LIHEAP and I hope the Federal Government continues to provide this relief to thousands of homeowners who are struggling or on fixed incomes.”


Temperatures stayed so hot throughout the South that in Greenville, North Carolina, the Miami Valley Community Action Partnership announced they had distinguished some of the heat with the Early Bird Paper’s report that 16,000 in “one-time monetary benefits to more than 130 households throughout the Miami Valley since the program started on July 1. These benefits provide bill payment assistance for those with documented medical conditions or persons 60 years of age or older. Miami Valley CAP has also provided $26,000 worth of benefits for more than 150 households in the form of new air conditioning units. In addition, the agency has spent more than $1,000 repairing existing air conditioning systems.” 


Over in neighboring Georgia, the Atlanta Constitution- Journal ran a front page story at the top of August singling out elderly LIHEAP recipients who the program helps make a life-saving difference in the lives of, like Ellie Fluker, “a 77 year old Decatur resident on a fixed retirement income, reached out to Georgia Power for the company’s help in lowering her bills through the utility’s free Energy Assessment and Solution Program.    She couldn’t be more pleased with the results.  Fluker, who has lived in her home for more than 50 years, saw her electricity bill drop from $178 to $92 a month after new insulation was installed in her house, telling the Journal ‘You cannot believe the difference that made.’ ”  


Up in Maine, advocate organizations like the Journal Tribune highlighted the importance of elderly residents like Ms. Fluker to remain “cool when the red of the thermometer rises.  Summer time heat can be especially dangerous for an older adult…(where) the increased risks an older adult faces with the summer heat and humidity. Certain individuals with health-related illness, such as COPD, tend to prefer the air-conditioned environment, and this is also advised for them as the heat and humidity can trigger or worsen their respiratory conditions.  Older adults may prefer to avoid the use of an air conditioner. If so, encourage the use of shading or open windows for air circulation.”


            Down in New York City, the Central Harlem Senior Center advertised in caps that local elderly residents should “SPEND AS MUCH TIME AS POSSIBLE INSIDE with the air conditioning on. If you don’t have an air conditioner, go somewhere that is air-conditioned, such as a shopping mall, library, senior center, or movie theatre. Fans can’t provide enough cooling if the temperature is in the 90s or higher…If you do not have or cannot afford an air condition or fan…the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps adults 65 and older who have limited incomes cover the cost of air conditioners and utility bills…(and) one air conditioner or fan, not to exceed $800 with installation, will be provided per applicant household.”