Hottest Heating Season On Record Scorches Midwest, South and West, Spills Over Into Fall

Writing and Reporting by Jake Brown

The Midwest’s summer cooling season extended beyond the planned-for deadline, buttressing right up – and in some cases – into the start of fall enrollment for LIHEAP’s winter heating season.  An all-hands-on-deck effort across the country, Memphis television channel Fox 13 teamed up with Shelby County officials to give $8 million in extra aid as part of their “Keep the Lights On” campaign.  With a one-time payment of between $150 and $650 in utility assistance per household available, Fox 13’s on-site reporter, Merle Purvis, took to the airwaves to raise awareness for those in need:


“I’m so glad that you guys are her joining us.  The phone lines are already ringing, the second Darryl gave the number, the phone lines started ringing.  This is very important business here.  We’re trying to help the County give away $8 million to help families keep the lights on.  You can see there, they’re already busy.  In fact, those lines started ringing at 11 o’clock this morning before we even gave the telephone number out, all of the cues were full by 1 o’clock in the afternoon.  For the next 90 minutes, we’re going to have these Community Service Agency experts on the lines, qualified and certified to take personal information to see if you qualify to get help paying your power bill.  You could get a grant of up to $675 if you qualify.  We’ll also have leaders from the county here talking about who qualifies, and will make sure you have every piece of information you need.” 1


Up in Iowa, a powerful letter to the editor was delivered by Trisha S. Wilkins, Executive Director of the Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation, emphasizing just how desperate the weather was making the families her organization works tirelessly to help keep the power on year round, specifically “1,658 unduplicated individuals (in)…the 12-month period that ended August 31, 2019…experiencing a temporary setback or face a continuous challenge to meet their basic needs, including 554 households participated in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)…in Northeast Iowa counties of Allamakee, Bremer, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek.”  2


Meanwhile, down in neighboring Illinois, the Kendall-Grundy Community Action Services, as part of their LIHEAP disbursal protocol, are keeping an eye on both the short and long term, explaining that “the mission for these energy assistance programs are to assist low income households in meeting their immediate home energy needs by paying a portion of winter energy bills to prevent service interruptions, while providing education on home energy conservation and other opportunities to achieve and maintain energy security and financial self stability.” 3


Out Western, the Navajo-Hopi Observer reported that in an effort to help the maximum number of tribal residents through the punishing summer heat out on the oft-rural reservations they call home, the “Native American Disability Law Center to will be assisting low-income Native American Elders (65 years and older) and Native Americans with disabilities (21 years and older) to connect to benefits programs like… the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This service is offered free of charge thanks to a grant from the National Council on Aging (NCOA).  The Native American Disability Law Center was selected by the NCOA to operate a Benefits Enrollment Center (BEC) for San Juan and McKinley Counties, because we have a unique connection to people with disabilities as well as great community partners.” 4