Coming out of a winter freeze across the Midwest, hard-hit households across rural and urban Indiana were battling post-winter heating bill pile-ups, with utilities thankfully stepping up to do their part in the form of working with delinquent customers to keep the electricity on.
As the cold weather continues to extend itself, so too do deadlines around the country for LIHEAP Emergency Assistance applications from families desperate to keep the heat on during the frigid winter storms around the country, from rural households snowed in from the storms with power lines down in regions like Upstate New York, where the Daily Gazette reported in late February that the state would make another $15 million in energy assistance available to approximately 35,000 families.
Heat was the headline of the month as many of the hottest temperatures on record plagued the country indiscriminate of geography. Communities everywhere were draining LIHEAP funds to help cool homes. The North East Community Action Corporation of Hannibal, MO, announced in a new record that over HALF their available LIHEAP funds had already been spent within the FIRST WEEK of availability! Local television station WGEM captured the crisis in an interview with NECAC Services Coordinator Gwen Koch, who confirmed that “right now, we have already spent 64% of the funding. that just started June 1st, so given that we don’t know how much longer it’s going to last, but a lot of people have already hit that 300, so unfortunately that makes it really hard on people.”
Taking a different coverage angle than the usual straight-ahead reporting on how summer heat affects people’s home energy bills, CNN put the spotlight on the impact of how uncertain Federal policy on LIHEAP affects vulnerable citizens during their commutes to and from their second and third jobs. For the working poor, these commutes are made that much harder by the fact that, while they can receive assistance with a home utility bill, “currently, there is no federal program to assist with gasoline prices…It's important to keep in mind -- especially those of us for whom 46 cents is no big deal -- that there are two Americas: One for those who can absorb price increases with few changes to their lifestyles and another who have to choose which bills to pay each month. About one out of four Americans live in this second version of the country. These Americans are nurse's aides, service workers, store clerks, and single parents working two jobs just to make ends meet. They are also grandparents who rely on Social Security to pay their bills and disabled Americans and veterans unable to return to work. There is no perfect solution to the problem of rising gas bills. But poor families should not be expected to cover the additional cost. The government must step in, as needed, to assist.”