Wrap Up

Winter 2019 News Wrap-Up

Writing and Reporting by Jake Brown

With winter weather kicking into high gear around every part of the U.S. that traditionally counts on LIHEAP assistance, the local soldiers on the front lines of the battle to keep the millions of families warm this winter were working overtime to keep up with demand as temperatures plummeted, thermostats went up, and electric bills rose right along with them!  Brave recipients like Dungeness Valley residents Michelle and John Bonifazio spoke up to share their version of that nightmare with the Peninsula Daily News, who reported that Washington state couple “last year, Michelle and John faced the first of several rough patches…the heating bill soared. The couple applied for and received help, just in time, from Washington state’s federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.”


Admitting that “we were seriously behind,” the couple – raising a family that included a daughter and son all living under one roof – fell into “a very down, dark time in our life” before LIHEAP helped brighten the house and holidays up, help Michelle Bonifazio added “was humbling” to receive.  Across the country in Columbia, Missouri, Local television channel ACB 17 reported similar conditions both on the thermostat and corresponding heating costs as “frigid temperatures have chilled mid-Missouri early this year, leaving many people with high utility bills with months of cold weather remaining.” 


Stepping up to help turn up the heat and down the pressure on households struggling to make it through winter, a mother of four who preferred to remain anonymous admitted that "there's nothing I can do, I'd probably be sitting in the dark with my babies with candles, that's it. That's all I can do.”  Central Missouri Community Action’s energy assistance manager, Jennifer Donaldson, remarked on the family’s circumstance in context of the larger demand that “it is very eye opening how much poverty there is in our community and how many people go without either gas or electricity until our funding is available.”


Nearby in Illinois, the St. Louis Post Dispatch shared the holiday miracle that an extra $600,000 in LIHEAP funds would be released to Madison County, allowing thousands of additional families to receive energy assistance right when they needed it most, confirmed by Community Development Administrator Trudy Bodenbach, who mused that “we are thrilled that DCEO chose our agency to receive this additional funding.  DCEO recognized both the need here in Madison County, as well as our staff’s ability to utilize the funding in the most effective and efficient manner — to serve the greatest possible number of residents.”


Back in New England, in light of an alarming flurry of reports from local papers like the Berkshire Eagle’s that “state officials expect 20 percent more applicants for heating aid this year,” the paper published a powerful Op-Ed endorsing the proactive move by “members of the Berkshires legislative delegation” that “have pledged to do their best to convince Beacon Hill to furnish a supplemental budget allotment from the state (given)… The Bay State's allocation this year from the federal government totals $136.5 million, which is $11.2 million less than last year — despite the fact that oil, gas and electricity prices are rising. The commonwealth's reduction was more than any other state,” while cautioning that urgent action as required given “allocations have already begun to run out.”

            Next door, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania dispatched Deb Davis, the utility’s manager of Universal Services, to re-assure the public that in light of the life-threatening weather, help was available for those in need, such that, “at Columbia Gas, we want our customers to be safe and warm this winter, which is why we want our customers to know about the availability of LIHEAP assistance.  As a natural gas utility, we are committed to providing our most vulnerable customers with resources like LIHEAP to help with their heating bills. If you or someone you know may be struggling to pay their heating bills, please apply for a LIHEAP grant as soon as possible.”





1.     http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/keeping-warm-while-starting-fresh-sequim-couple-receives-peninsula-home-fund-help/


2.     https://www.abc17news.com/news/low-income-utility-assistance-programs-accepting-applications/908826833


3.     https://www.stltoday.com/suburban-journals/illinois/county-receives-additional-funding-for-liheap/article_93ca3711-bb8f-56e4-b7cb-90d3233147d5.html


4.     https://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/our-opinion-liheap-cuts-to-the-state-need-to-be-explained,558805


5.     https://observer-reporter.com/sponsored/columbiagas/help-for-winter-heating-bills-now-available-through-liheap/article_ed356960-fa56-11e8-a15f-3b8d255dc483.html